2003 Lecture Series
In its current sense of a pleasing subject for photography, the term 'photogenic' appears superficial and banal. However, the literal meaning of the word, which translates as 'light-produced', suggests the centrality of the surface within photographic process and materiality. In this context, the photogenic encourages a reinvestment in surfaces as complex mechanisms of meaning production.
'Photogenic' was a series of five lectures and forums at Centre for Contemporary Photography between July and November 2003, featuring ten guest speakers from around Australia. Keynote lectures were presented by two of the founding curators of contemporary Australian photography, Gael Newton and Ian North, and one of Australia's preeminent Indigenous photo-based artists, Destiny Deacon. The series also included two special forums, one on the intersections between art and film and another on the conservation and collecting of digital photography.
In recent years Australian photo-based artists have enjoyed an unprecedented profile within the international art world. The rapidly diversifying terrain of post-millennial print and televisual media in an era of escalating world conflicts has also fuelled a dynamic resurgence of documentary photography. Can there be a one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating current reportage, photojournalism or personal documentary practice as well as the concept based photomedia work which has dominated the last few decades of museum and dealer gallery productions? Is there a need for a customised critical language to accommodate bodies of documentary work which may have several configurations across the page and the walls of an exhibition space?
This free public forum accompanied the Art+Film exhibition at Centre for Contemporary Photography, and was part of the Talking Pictures program of the 2003 Melbourne International Film Festival. Curated by Natasha Bullock and Brendan Lee, the exhibition explores the effect and influence of cinema on contemporary artistic imagination and practice and includes leading and emerging Australian artists such as Philip Brophy, Starlie Geikie, David Noonan and Ricky Swallow. Speakers Brendan Lee, Adrian Martin and Clare Stewart will use the CCP exhibition as a starting point for a more general discussion around the many and diverse intersections of art and film.
Photography, to the curator, is just another art medium, right? Wrong. Museums perpetuate confusion after confusion in defining art, a problem compounded with respect to photography by questions about the real. Both the computer's historical dissolution of postmodernism and recent probings in philosophical aesthetics create new levels of complication. The curator's job just got harder...
Confused about the difference between a Pegasus and a Lightjet? Worried about the stability of inkjet prints? In light of the fact that a large majority of contemporary photographers employ digital printing processes, this forum explored the various available options and look at issues related to identification, terminology, stability and factors relating to permanence. In addition, time was given for consideration of less obvious issues related to current shifts in digital image making, such as the end of the photographic 'original'–the negative. Knowledge, experiences and opinions was offered by experts from various quarters: Katy Glen, Paper Conservator at the State Library of Victoria, discussed these issues in light of the photograph as a historical record; Angeletta Leggio, Conservator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Victoria, addressed the conservation process in an art photography department; Sarrah Shapley, contemporary art specialist at Shapiro Auctioneers, offered the collector's view; and Les Walkling, distinguished Australian artist and Coordinator of Media Arts at RMIT, spoke from an artistic and educational perspective.
Principally known for her photographic and video work, Melbourne-based Indigenous artist Destiny Deacon is also a writer, broadcaster and performer. Produced from her living room/studio in Brunswick, her work employs irony and 'blak' humour to make challenging statements about Western perceptions of Aboriginal people. This was a rare opportunity to hear Deacon speak in-depth about her practice, Indigenous issues and the contemporary context.