One focus here was on the role of emerging distributed and networked image ecologies and their hyperconnected and accelerated patterns of migration and mutation. A further focus explored emerging forms of photographic storytelling that hybridize documentary and fictional narrative strategies. One group exhibition in particular, A New Display: Visual Storytelling at a Crossroads, looked at presentational modes of narration using physical or virtual space, or hybrids thereof. A final focus was addressing the changing conceptions of the expert and the layperson by presenting collective forms of work with the photographic.
One of the main goals of this edition of Krakow Photomonth was enabling visitors to engage critically and actively, not only with the artworks in the gallery and public spaces of the festival but also beyond that immediate context — that is, with the wider complexities of our planetary image ecology, such as the deployment of visual propaganda on commercial, political, religious, and personal levels that currently confronts us all.
In sum, the point of departure for this year’s Photomonth festival’s Main Program was the conviction that ‘crisis’ is not a transitional phase or an anomaly any more, but a characteristic trait of everyday life, a permanent state with which we must cope in practically all spheres of our lives: private, public, and global. The crises of politics, economy, environment and migration concern us to the same degree as crises of identity, trust, and “individuality” in a globalized world.
Nor has the crisis bypassed photography which, in our epoch of image overproduction, is trying to constantly re-establish its place. The perpetually changing media landscape has forced photographers — journalists, reporters, and artists alike — to turn to new forms of communication with the viewer and new creative uses of source materials. Classical reportage no longer suffices to speak of the contemporary world and the processes it sees happening. Democratic institutions, including cultural ones, have to redefine their roles in creating culture. The exhibitions presented during Krakow Photomonth, each alluding in their own way to global, social, and political problems, all had their own stakes in telling of the problems of the contemporary world; they were all reflections on the function of photography. The artists invited to take part in the festival used a range of strategies to address these phenomena and comment on them.
Detailed project description:
Photographer Paul Graham, presented the project New Europe, which turned out to be remarkably prescient in the face of the all-too-evident crisis of “European values.”
A wider global perspective came courtesy of Yann Mingard who draws from the notion of the Anthropocene. His project Deposit, completed between 2009 and 2013, shows how humankind collects, stores, and classifies both biological specimens and digital information that are usually hidden from public view. To enable this, Mingard brought back images from twenty-one locations, dividing them into four sub-chapters: Plants, Animals, Humans, and Data.
Another, private, perspective was adopted by the outstanding Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska in whose work we find themes of incompatibility of individuals and roles played by human bodies.
Max Pinckers solo show Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty is a story about love, marriage and universal aspirations to show happiness. The artist pairs his photographs with newspaper clippings, notes, and artefacts from wedding photography studios, which might be seen as an attempt to go beyond the crisis of classical documentary photography.
The search for new forms of visual narrative in the era of the crisis of visual media was the main motif of a collective exhibition entitled A New Display: Visual Storytelling at a Crossroads, curated by Iris Sikking. The six projects presented here (see below) took on such difficult subjects as the heroin trade, genocide, and migration; they were linked by a desire to go beyond a classical way of telling global histories, which the artists acknowledge to be insufficient. Here photographs on a wall were just as adequate a form of response as a radio broadcast, a YouTube film, or illustrations from an archive.
The six projects are:
–Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong: Poppy – Trails of Afghan Heroin
–Mike Mandel and Chantal Zakari: Shelter-in-Plates. Lockdown Archive
–Anoek Steketee, Eefje Blankevoort: Love Radio – Episodes of Love and Hate
–Annette Behrens, (in matters of) Karl
–Dirk-Jan Visser, Jan Rothuizen and Martijn van Tol: Refugee Republic
–Thomas Kuijpers: When the Twins Were Still Beautiful
The collective #Dysturb spoke directly about the crisis in journalism, using the walls of buildings and advertising media to force Krakow’s inhabitants to face “street news” that rarely appears in newspaper headlines nowadays.
The strong presence of photography collectives was another notable feature of this year’s Photomonth. The Polish collective, Sputnik Photos, pre-premiered their latest project in Krakow. The materials collected and created in preparation for their travels to former Soviet republics went into a photo-sculpture installation that polemicized the classical understanding of authorship and the autonomy of the image.
A Process 2.0 by the collective Der Greif related to these concerns in that it questions photography in its digital form as a distinct medium, its handling with the use of the Internet as well as photography’s haptic stimuli and common perception of authorship. A Process 2.0 used the World Wide Web’s participatory structure to connect participants, visitors and editors across national boundaries—made possible due to an online transmission of the performative exhibition.