WHAT WILL PHOTOGRAPHY BE UP TO IN THE 21ST CENTURY?

We all know the famous line "a picture is worth a thousand words". And so is it on many occasions. Our reality feeds by a multitude of images that we consume daily in the era of over-information. According to 2017 data, every minute 65,000 photos are uploaded to Instagram, 400 hours of video to YouTube and 243,000 images to Facebook. The statistics will have varied a bit in these two years, but always upwards. Precisely for this reason, it is sometimes difficult to value photography as an artistic discipline, since there is a widespread notion that obtaining a good image is within everyone's reach. That's why we ask ourselves: what is the future of photography in the 21st century?

First image even taken with a person, by Louis Daguerre, 1838

Reviewing the history of photography, we must not forget that in its beginnings, it was not properly considered an artistic discipline. In the mid-19th century, the capture of the image was seen as a technical improvement that allowed freezing a moment for memory, with a purpose more documentary and for the historical record than an original creation. This technique lacked the qualities traditionally attributed to works of art: there was no hand mastering, no previous training was necessary, nothing new was produced, and it was limited to reproducing reality.

Robert Doisneau, “La Dame Indignée”, 1948 (imagen de 1stdibs.com)

The expansion of photography to make portraits, and the progressive replacement of painting for these purposes, coincided in time with the naturalist movement, which advocated an objective representation of reality devoid of elaborate compositions and the constant search for traditional beauty canons. Photography adapted so well to this movement that it was, in fact, a high impulse for its expansion. To this were added some technical advances of the moment that contributed to the popularisation of this discipline, increasingly accessible and portable, with smaller and easy-to-move-outside-the-dark-room-of-portrait cameras.

Jeff Wall, “Invisible man”, 1999-2000 (image from MoMA)

Nowadays, no one doubts that photography is art. The problem lies in maintaining the integrity of this discipline with such imprecise contours between what the artist can do and what is available to everyone who has, not even a camera, but a mobile phone. Also when photography became enormously popular, from the 50s of the last century onwards, the images maintained the charm of spontaneous capture, of the pieces of authentic life stolen from its protagonists, of the magic of what is saved of oblivion in a second where coincidence and expertise match. Over the years, photographers complained that there was no longer any spontaneity in the people, the overprotection of the own image subtracts naturalness from the compositions, and there are fewer photos that emerge from chance.

Isabel Muñoz “Untitled”, from the series “Agua”, 2017.

Indeed, time imposes new guidelines. Contemporary photography goes forward thanks to the sophistication of the equipment itself and the use of other tools that allow taking images never thought before. In addition to this, the very idea around this discipline has changed, and subgenres begin to appear. Some of them have a clear artistic vocation while others seek a different message, more aligned to documentary or reporting goals. It is not strange, therefore, that some artists approach photographic projects with two phases of creation, so they first set their own scenarios to take the image then. Hybridisation with digital techniques is also widespread, although it is usual to distinguish between authentic photography, taken as it is, and digital composition when it is most intervened. It is difficult to predict what direction photography will take in the next few years, but one thing that has never changed is the curiosity that human beings feel for their fellow human beings and the power that a sincere look has in ourselves. That will never change.

 

Thirteen years have passed since its beginnings, and in all this time the Video Art Festival PROYECTOR has grown and consolidated its position as an essential event in this discipline. Since its inception, the initiative has tried to give visibility to a discipline that has always been relegated to the background in the usual exhibition circuits. Although video creation is not new, since it emerged by its own in the 60s of last century, the way to get to know it and enjoy it has not always been easy. On many occasions, the exhibitions only included a few isolated pieces within the main route, as if the video was the anecdotal contribution to the whole. However, our daily lives are invaded by moving images, and there is a paradox that video art, despite being a format of artistic expression very much in tune with the habits of today's society, remains a minority discipline

Frame from “Hel City”, by Gregorio Méndez Sáez, 2019

To some extent, PROYECTOR was born to reverse this situation, to value video as a creative format and to offer a wide, itinerant space to host a multitude of proposals, coming from inside and outside our borders. In this time, the growth of the festival has led it to travel the world, but also, to be a benchmark that each year arouses more interest. In the open call to receive proposals, they reach almost half a thousand, and a hundred works selected by the jury are a representative sample of different ways of understanding video creation, with pieces mainly from Europe, Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In turn, PROYECTOR wants to be more than a video showcase and offers a large program with talks, workshops, masterclasses, meetings with artists, visits and concerts. A complete experience that always has the moving image as a backdrop.

El Instante Francisco Ruiz de Infante. El bosque que se mueve (errores de medida)

In this evolution, another circumstance stands out: video is a creative format that has its own codes, but it is also one of the disciplines most open to artistic hybridization and the widening of uses. The video may, therefore, be the genuine idea of an author who conceives an autonomous project to be carried out in this format, but it can also be the complementary result of an action or the documentary record of a previous performance being recorded to guarantee its survival. The versatility of the moving image and the potential that it has acquired in recent years allows us today to speak of numerous branches of art that focus on the fusion of languages and the integration of techniques and methodologies from other sectors, and in many of them, the video is still a cornerstone. So it is with technological art, interactive sound art, performance recording, the transformation from big data to image, artificial intelligence, and a long etcetera. Precisely for this reason, PROYECTOR offers a panoramic vision of this reality, with an extremely interesting program that plays with the variety and wealth of proposals.

Frame from “Herdança”, by Thiago Rocha Pitta, 2007

The 2020 edition will run from September 9th to 20th. As usual, the program displays in various venues throughout the city of Madrid, each of which will house a small section of the activities. This year the festival will count with the collaboration of the Casa Árabe, White Lab, Cruce, El Instante Fundación, ¡ésta es una PLAZA!, Extensión AVAM (Matadero Madrid), Institut Français de Madrid, Medialab Prado, Quinta del Sordo, Sala Alcalá 31, Sala El Águila, Secuencia de Inútiles and White Lab, in addition to the collaboration of the INELCOM Collection and the video art collection of Teresa Sapey.

The festival is also the ideal place to articulate the cultural fabric, since it involves numerous professionals in the sector, from curators to creators, from centres managers to critics and teachers. The 2020 program also has the collaboration of the FUSO Festival and the Museo Reina Sofía, which are providing some of their pieces for the exhibition.

In short, an appointment that lovers of contemporary art should not miss and that promises many novelties in this 13th edition.