Report by Emy de Rooij

Commitment between reality and alienation

A report on symposium 1, organized by the 2nd year students of the Master Of Fine Arts program, AKV/ St. Joost (‘s Hertogenbosch/ Breda).

Breda, 20-10-2010

In which way do, should, or could artists reflect on their medium? Self-reflection. Lorelinde Verhees (photographer and student) asks herself these questions, and experiences that ‘alienation’ plays a big role in the matter.

In this symposium, a collection of viewpoints, in the form of text, film, photography, speakers and discussion is put together, to share and think about these subjects.

Nigerian photographer, Akintunde AKINLEYE (1971), former winner of the world press photo, currently working in Amsterdam in the Thami Mnyele residency program, was invited to take part in the symposium, giving his thoughts about the matter and giving a presentation on his work.

In advance of the symposium a text by Martha Rosler (artist and writer), Post-Documentary, Post- Photography? selected from the book Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975-2001 was handed out to the participants to read.

~In the text, Rosler writes about documentary photography, and its ‘promise of reality’, which is coming under pressure and discussion. She goes into techniques and functions of the socially engaged documentary photography in the postmodern time.~

Lorelinde gave us a commodious introduction on the subject of ‘alienation’. She gave us connections between her personal practice as photographer and artist, her research on Bertold Brecht (1898 –  HYPERLINK “http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/1956” \o “1956” 1956) and Martha Rosler.

Lorelindes own way of photographing, from a domestic environment, into a studio, were there is ‘no denial of the setup or staging of the work’ seems to contain a key factor to the content. She speaks about formulating ‘new intentions towards the reality’, and ‘boundaries of the illusion’.

The awareness of the constructed piece, a reflection on the medium and the ‘alienation’ effect is something that she looks at in the work of Brecht, where ‘alienation’ is made effective through various techniques. Brecht creates a theater showing a theater, representing ideas. For instance, people see the plot and know beforehand what is happening. In this way Brecht tries to break the so-called FOURTH WALL, the imaginary ‘wall’ that normally stands in between the public and the play on stage.

In reply to her intro, we discussed these themes in relation to our current society. Capitalism, commerce, beauty, and the possible role of the artist to reflect on the amount of images present today. At some point we ended up in big pools of questions about ‘truth’, ‘reality’, ‘perception’, and ended it with a final round through the crowd, adding some interesting new viewpoints, questions, and quotes. / What is the connection between a photograph and the place and moment of time, for instance comparing this to the time and place of a painting / What does an image-maker imply? / What does film mean towards this content? /

There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.
Roland Barthes

On a beamer Akin showed some of his latest photographs, made in Amsterdam, comparing them with photo’s of his hometown and –country: Lagos, Nigeria. As a street photographer he finds himself somewhere between the lines of documenter, photojournalist and artist, looking for beauty and truth-value.

We looked at lively images such as  colorful markets, protests, traffic and building sights. For Akin the spontaneity of the behavior of people on the streets has an interesting reality. On the other side, his own mind’s eye is constantly wrestling with this spontaneity, and he finds himself waiting at the traffic lights, for this one specific picture to appear.

We talked about the practicality of the photographer, the world, the news, the paper, the stories and the money, which made an interesting platform for reflecting our own practices.

A discussion on the morality of ‘beauty-ness’ of the (news)photograph, – is it our goal to attract attention? – how do we position ourselves between this immense collection of images present in our current sociality?- was a good introduction on the viewing of the movie Enjoy Poverty, by artist Renzo Martens (1973).

Renzo Martens film Episode 3 takes place in Congo, where he focuses his lens on the world of poor Africans and western development-aid. His film is often seen as a documentary, but it isn’t that, because of the personal aspect. Filming everything himself , including himself, Martens tries to be as open as possible. He says he operates as a representative of the West, bringing two worlds together. “The film is about looking at the Congo, about people who look at other people. In that way I try to explain why the world is the way it is. I try to bring two worlds together. ” (bron: Nynke Besemer,  HYPERLINK “http://www.cultuurbewust.nl” http://www.cultuurbewust.nl)

After this forceful movie we made an intention on speaking about the self-reflection of the medium, ‘does Martens break the 4th wall?’, which was quite a challenge, looking through sentimental and moral aspects.

All in all, for myself I couldn’t come to a conclusion about the impact of the movie, unless for sure the movie shouldn’t end with the movie. Renzo’s movie urges each of us to take our own personal consequences of spectating it.

After all, a wide extension of tastes, a good portion of information to digest, and lot’s of ingredients left to use.

Emy de Rooij (artist and student)


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