“The fundamental phenomenon of the Modern Age is the conquest of the world as an image”, says the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. One of the obsessions of the modern man seems to be the search for a solid territory, a territory of absolute answers to metaphysical questions. But this support point hasn’t been found in reality itself, but in its artificial double, in its symbolic reproduction, in the image. Photography wanted to offer this mythical space where a solid vision of reality would find sustain, so it is no wonder that, in its 19th century origin, the documental and indicative function turned into paradigm of the photography nature.
In this new century, transformations, mutations and reconfigurations are the signs of our time. New technologies have substantially changed the relationships, the access to information and the circulation of ideas. But also our relation with the representation of reality has been modified. Reality, as well as the truth, are not hegemonic terms anymore and have become concepts subject to consensus. Maybe that is why photography has also revised its objectivity aspirations and nowadays is offering a real view focussed on the imprecise and the intermediate, often tackled from the simulation, fiction or staging. This would be the case of the Chinese Wang Qingsong’s work, stagings that question the utopia of happiness that religions and political projects offer. Marcos López has also used theatricality in staging to reflect on the fragility of the appearances and the excessive importance of the image in the contemporary society.
The soul of photography is the construction of the representation, that is why contemporary photographers reconfigure their view of the world through uncertain, ambiguous and polysemous images; revealing the instability and fragility of the contemporary thought. Sammy Baloji proposes a reinterpretation of the colonial past from the present. The trace of exploitation, visible through the photographs of that time, remains in the workers that currently hold the position of the slaves, showing that oppression has just adopted different strategies.
The same way Marx predicted that history is written first as a tragedy and then as a farce, the art in the 21st century seems to correspond to this prediction and contributes with constructions, stagings of the world where aesthetics or sarcasm seem to become established beyond ideologies, and reflections and contradictions proliferate more than affirmations. Jorge Rueda illustrated in the seventies, through the histrionism of his images, this transit from tragedy to farce in the history of Spain. Dionisio González used manipulations as well, this time generating three-dimensional volumes digitally, to think about the urban areas that stretch along the outskirts of a city like São Paulo, where the vernacular and humble architecture of the shanties and the dazzling texture of the contemporary buildings are juxtaposed. Towns are an omnipresent issue among contemporary artists around the world. Photographs are pieces of that reality that is so difficult to agree upon; it is no surprise that Jose Ignacio Lobo Altuna has decided to fragment in images the square of Las Arenas (Getxo), where he lived for many years, to speak about the transformations that occured there in the course of twenty years.
Julio Bittencourt makes a mosaic of the daily characters that inhabit one of the buildings in his city -São Paulowith the highest immigrants’ dwelling from all over the world. At the other end of the social spectrum, Esteban Pastorino makes up imposible cameras in the fashion of the 19th century. Pastorino finds the main characters of his images in all the cities around the planet. Ananké Asseff presents a series of portraits that, as typologies, tells us about the paranoia about delinquency that assailed the wealthy class in Buenos Aires. The extraordinary proliferation of low caliber weapons serves to illustrate the panic that certain social classes felt in view of the escalation of violence thatcame up after the fall of the President Carlos Menem, and the extreme economic crisis that his political project generated in Argentina.
Photography pays tribute to appearances and contemporary society has uplifted this concept to the category of paradigm; to the extent of developing technologies subject to manipulating appearances at will, underlining this perception that we live in a time devoted to superficiality and, consequently, filled with artificialities. Miguel Trillo’s photographs highlight precisely the tribal codes that hide behind the appearances of young groups that compose the urban tribes. A staging of our aspiration for social belonging is what Philip Kwame Apagya offers in his photographic studio. Kwame replaces his clients’ everyday stages with painted backgrounds that evoke modernity and the collective wish to change the external appearance of our existence.
The change that our faces and bodies undergo has been the subject of years of photographic tracking by the photographer Pere Formiguera. He has also used tipologies as visual means to show the passage of time. On the other hand, the Peruvian Cecilia Paredes uses her own body as a surface over which she stages the fantastic transformations that compose her private imaginary.
Precisely in these years when questions predominate and answers are scarce, visual artists are exploring how to represent a time where virtuality has settled down as another dimension of the quotidian. Questions that come to us before the portraits of apes of Fernando Maquieira; disquieting portraits that transmit tenderness, friendliness and a breath of irreality due to the almost human gesture they show. Finally, Gonzalo Azumendi bets on an optimistic view of our society, using humor to affirm his idea of a mixed and tolerant world.
Authors 2008Gallery 2008