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Contemporary photography or the new suit of the emperor

Contemporary photography or the new suit of the emperor

Today the exhibition ‘Start at the beginning … And continue until the end: there you stop’ at CentroCentro. Enter the famous PhotoEspaña white card that this year has fallen to Cristina de Middel. The idea is to bring together twelve authors who have opted for experimentation and the fusion of photography with other languages.

The exhibition can see it in the city of Madrid, one of the most striking cultural centers of the city, within PhotoEspaña 2018. It was a year ago when Alberto García Alix surprised us all and sundry with mounting shuddering ‘Café Lehmitz’ of Anders Petersen and the tough ‘Dance Tracks’ by Teresa Margolles. It was when he was given the carte blanche, an honor that allows you to expose what you want; They trust your criteria and your tastes. Many of us still remember that exhibition …

Center Vonplon Esther Center 02
Ester Vonplon. Untitled (It would take 50 flakes to make 1 gram of snow), 2018 © Ester Vonplon

But this time we are faced with a game. A game in which if you do not understand anything, as assured by the curator Hester Keijser (chosen by Cristina de Middel and expert in the world of photobooks that manages the blog The Independent Photo Book), nothing happens because we are in front of an entertainment , as indicated by the phrase ‘Alice in Wonderland’ that gives its name to what we see on the fifth floor.

The background of the exhibition

At all times we reminded the audience that what we were going to see in the halls was nothing more than a game that was not to be understood. There are two teams, one from the Netherlands and one from Switzerland. Each team has six players. The field is the room and its half is indicated by projections by Roman Signer. The members are the Dutch Ruth van Beek, Lana Mesić, Uta Eisenreich, Anne Geene, Jan van der Til and Isabelle Wenzel; and the Swiss Ester Vonplon, Augustin Rebetez, Magdalena Baranya, Stephane Winter, Rachele Maistrello and Thomas Rousset.

Downtown Van Beek Ruth 03
Ruth van Beek The Situation Room (Two figures) 2016 © Ruth van Beek

At the end of the exhibition, the visitor, bewildered by such ingenuity and fun, will have to decide who has won the game and can even vote in a funny urn. All are laughs, from start to finish. Or at least that is the intention of the curator and Cristina de Middel, who even propose to play hopscotch or ride a swing to get more involved in the matter.

From one end to the other, we see different interventions where photography is the body in which the ideas of the authors are developed, as Cristina de Middel says:

By looking outside and trying to identify the countries where you play more and better in photographic terms, it is easy to see how Switzerland and the Netherlands stand out. Perhaps because of its educational system or because photography there is no longer questioning how art, the authors who stand out seem to set the bar very high in terms of inventiveness. There could not be a lack of a proposal that, through a playful exhibition structure, offered a platform for them to develop their full potential. This exhibition brings us the best of each house, almost a festival within the festival, a White Letter within the White Letter and undoubtedly an experiment whose result could well remove the foundations of what many think is, or should be, the Photography.

Of course the intention is good. And the idea, the concept, could be judged as brilliant. It’s good to have great ideas. The problem is knowing how to translate them.

Contemporary photography or the new suit of the emperor

My personal impression of the exhibition has not been good. I think the image has to enter through the eyes. It does not need explanations. The concept comes later. The obligation of the author is to master the technique and be able to express himself with the photographic language. You can write if you master the language. You can paint if you understand the color. You can photograph if you control the camera. And that does not happen here. It’s a game, but there are some rules.

Center Maistrello Rachelle Center 01Rachelle Maistrello. Untitled # 5 (One of Us), 2016 © Rachelle Maistrello

The image is paramount. The fashion of the concept that invades us has led us to think that there is nothing more important. And if we decorate the papers hanging on the wall with a grandiloquent text anything goes. I will give a few examples:

  • … The starting point for Ruth van Beek’s work is her archive of photographs, which is constantly expanding …
  • … All the works selected for the exhibition focus on the fact of taking risks and on the way in which we manage the instability that we generate when doing it …
  • … Towers focuses on our collective illusion that failure is a bad thing, instead of something that we should accept in all its splendor and take as a starting point to ask ourselves why being unproductive has become so much a sin capital…
  • … It focuses on coincidence rather than on certainty or repeatability, on the place occupied by plants in human society rather than on their own habitats and on the transformation of these organisms into museum pieces …
  • … Jan var der Til’s work uses very diverse forms of expression; Sometimes it is anonymous and questions the concepts of authorship, originality, meaning and context. The boundaries between work. original and copy have been gradually disappearing ….
  • … I stretched forward. I experienced a feeling of heaviness. I felt overwhelmed by all the possible options …
Downtown Van Der Til JanJan van der Til Book XI, 2018 © Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

I could follow and reproduce all the hidden posters to try to understand what I am seeing: blurred images, broken, moved, manipulated, big, small … From the beginning they said it is a game, that nothing makes sense. Do they want the viewer to feel cheated? Do you want them to think that photography is over? Do you want to say that anything is a photograph? Is it really worth anything to express an idea?

Photography should not play with the intelligentsia. Or rather, you should not camouflage yourself in it. Photography is not enough for public relations. Being a photographer is not a nice pose. It does not make sense to repeat what the Surrealists have already done. It is no longer reactionary to hang a sign in which they say that there are no works posted for our safety. No longer.

Downtown Wenzel Isabelle
Isabelle Wenzel Encounter 1.8, 2017 © Isabelle Wenzel

Perhaps all we see is the secret and meaningless game of Carroll’s novel. But as I said before, with ideas is not enough. You have to know how to express yourself and attract the public with your eyes. What we see does not leave photography in good condition. Unless we want to have fun …

‘Start at the beginning … And continue until you reach the end: there you stand’

of June 5, 2018

CentroCentro Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles, 1, 28014, Madrid

Free entry until complete seats.

About Nick Fury

Hi, I am Nick! Apart from being a loving husband and a father of one, I dedicate myself to manage a company full time. Writing is my passion, I started writing a blog some 10 years ago, now reviving this passion again, I would love to express my views and takes on day to day stuff, hope you guys enjoy! Do share your thoughts.

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