Symposium: UNFIXED, Photography and Postcolonial Perspectives in Contemporary Art
The UNFIXED symposium (November 16, 2010) will explore the relation between photography and postcolonial perspectives in contemporary art, focusing on photography’s significance within changing notions of cultural histories, identities and representations. Photography’s attraction as a medium, its historical connection to the production and fixation of (cultural) identity, and the urgency of debates over identity, globalization, and culture, inspire the UNFIXED symposium. Via its various platforms (exhibition, student workshop, symposium and publication), UNFIXED seeks to dissolve ideas of photographic truth and cultural identity as essential and unchanging by exploring artistic practices that are innovative, self-reflexive and critical. Photographs are not simply viewed as representations, but are understood to embody and communicate histories of power within complex visual discourses. The photograph is not only an act of remembrance recorded, but also a productive act of invention. This creates new positions and challenging questions that ask – Who is looking? Whose history is represented? What is the photographic image staging?
The UNFIXED symposium brings together a group of international contemporary artists and scholars with personal relations to migration, colonial history and cultural diaspora. From their own practice and research, participating artists and theorists will reflect on their relationship to photography’s representational abilities within a postcolonial context. Presentations will touch on such topics as: colonial photography, visual sovereignity, hybrid identity, photographic research and process, image and text relationships, and representation within media and popular culture. The symposium aims to blur the lines between art practice, scholarly research and cultural activism, contributing to the Netherlands’ relatively young debate about postcolonial perspectives in relation to photography.
The day will include lectures and presentations from each of the artists exhibited in UNFIXED (showing 23 Oct. – 4 Dec., CBK Dordrecht, NL) – Charif Benhelima (BE), Otobong Nkanga (FR/NG), Keith Piper (UK), Naro Snackey (NL), Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (US) and Hank Willis Thomas (US). These artists actively incorporate research, theory and concept into their practices and many also work as educators and cultural critics. Their presentations will consider strategies, motives and histories of photography in relation to their work.
Pamela Pattynama, Professor of Colonial and Postcolonial Literature and Cultural History, University of Amsterdam, will present her research on the visual history of the Indo-Dutch community in the Netherlands.
Art historian and critic Kobena Mercer (UK) will present the keynote lecture. Mercer will discuss photography and the colonial conditions of cross cultural modernity, offering a critical account of the often vexed relation between photographic theory and postcolonial studies. He is known for his pioneering texts in the field of visual culture, art and cultural studies. Since his first book, Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies (1994), Mercer has contributed to catalogues such as Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire (1996) and AfroModern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic (2010), and edited and authored many other monographs, articles and books.
Organized by UNFIXED Projects in collaboration with the Center for Contemporary Art (CBK) Dordrecht, the Netherlands. Curated by Sara Blokland and Asmara Pelupessy.
Photography / Colonial history /