Photography in the museum

07. July 2013. – 20. October
MegnyitóOpening: July 6, 2013, 5:00 pm
MegnyitjaRemarks by: Perenyei Monika
KurátorCurator: Perenyei Monika
Still – the word may stand for deep silence, a static photograph, a picture frame, or may refer to the time up to and including the present moment. This word of rich significance stands as the title of an exhibition of internationally recognized, mostly European photographers and video artists in the second floor exhibition hall of MODEM, Debrecen. In addition to Hungarian institutions and private collections, several international galleries and museums – including the MUMOK of Vienna and the Folkwang Museum of Essen – have offered works for this large-scale thematic exhibition.

With the gradual headway of digital technology, the status of photography has radically changed in the museum during the last three decades. From the late 70’s on – or, more specifically, after Jeff Wall’s first light boxes – large photo prints appeared on the walls of exhibition halls, in spaces previously reserved exclusively for paintings. This shift of scale was made possible by digital technology: these photographic panel paintings came in new sizes and with unique characteristic traits regarding their execution. Both their large sizes and their contents allow for more intense contemplation. The giant “frozen frames,” the film stills highlight the complexities of photographic creative practices that result from studying and incorporating the characteristics of various mediums (such as painting, sculpture, architecture, and film).

Thus, the present exhibition includes panel pictures and moving images that were produced by a photographic process of image-making, that is, they are photographs in the broad sense of the term. However, the works displayed in the show also call attention to the characteristics of the photographic process, and therefore also to the two-faced – documentative and representative – nature of the pictures thus produced. In other words, in this case the museum exhibition space does not simply give room for photographs, but also to works that attempt to uncover and unravel the often taken for granted characteristics and effects of visual representation in the context of photo-based media, that is, our everyday visual environment. They raise awareness about one’s expectations, habits, and illusions associated with photo-based images.

Some of the works presented here extend the interpretation of the medium and lay emphasis on exploring the communal possibilities inherent in photography: the main characters of these photo-based works are also active participants of the processes productive of the image. Meanwhile, the works also make contact with the traditional corpus, genres, and symbolic themes of the art world. Moreover, photography does not only enter the museum space in the form of photos and photo-objects: the world of the exhibition, which is tuned for contemplative reception, is also shaped by photo-works that were originally created in “sacred” museum spaces designed traditionally for the guarding and presentation of pictures. As a consequence, photography itself, the act of image-making, and the analysing attitude of fine arts also enter the exhibition space in specific ways, thus engaging the spectator in the game of creation.

The panel-photographs that yield the delicate experience of aesthetic reception and intellectual awareness take over the role of the art of remembrance (Baudelaire) from painting. By their appearance in the space of the museum, these photographic panel pictures do not simply preserve and continue the memory of the tradition of fine arts: simultaneously, they also confront the spectator with the ambivalent effects and vanishing results of modernity, which influence our world to such a high degree.

The main theme of the exhibition reflects the institutional system of modernity as well as its cultural practices. The present selection attempts to create an experience of time that may also lead to a silent critique of the fast-paced, goal- and product-oriented world of modernity.