Dial Emma

Jonathan's Art Dilemma No. 17: What are exhibitions for?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Performance Talk

Though I will never ever be able to observe it, except in the background to some pictures, apparently my way of taking a photograph is quite stylised. I don’t know how this has come about. Previously I used a small, shoot and snap camera, I had a very mannered stance. Feet flat anchored to the ground, the regulation distance apart, legs straight, bum shoved out, the top half of my body leaning forwards at about twenty degrees, the angle changing as I framed the shot. A glorified tripod, bent awkwardly to strange angles. In the manner of Jacques Tati, petit camera, large man, there was no chance that I could take discreet snaps. People gathered round and laughed. There was I thinking photography was akin to spying.
With digital and camera phones the process has become quicker, but I still have a very distinctive ballet posture. I try to relax. Get fluid. Take pictures on the sly, but always end up making a performance out of it.
Watching Pradip Malde’s talk ‘Haiti: Blind Architect’ and also the Al Pitcher Picture Show on successive days of the Photobiennial has made me realize what a public performance photography is. In all it’s aspects.
Both gentleman stood directly in front of an audience and used photography to illustrate and animate their points. Pitcher to promote his comedy routine, Malde to highlight desperate poverty and the effect on the mental health of an already weakened population.
During their shows both elaborately mimed taking, and in Pitchers case actually took photographs Both used powerpoint type projection to illustrate what they had to say. Performance input, and performance output.
Malde, a professor of fine art photography, told how his pictures had been printed using a platinum/palladium process on a specific paper, and that he was in the process of securing a book deal and writing the commentary himself. Same old, same old routine for documentary photography. One based on being published and academic advancement. The cupboards are clogged full of these books. The slide show presentation was a stop gap until that came to pass. However this performance to a small audience was astute, subjective, and emotive. Right on the button. The news from Haiti over the past few days will be reverberated a lot clearer and with higher energy by those six people who were at the talk.
Slide shows may feel naff, office bound and not as grand as a bound copy or a chi chi exhibition but as a means of communicating, and even as entertainment they can be the most environmentally crisp and sleek route available. Quick in. Quick out. Big fallout. Little detritus.

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