Picture. So what?
Red Eye Effect at Warsaw's CCA
A major exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, showcasing over 50 artists who use photography. Each of them contemporary and Polish. The title, Red Eye Effect, suggests some relevance to amateur photography (the aesthetic of which is often appropriated by artists). Using a camera is easy, 'anyone can take a picture'. Digital equipment is more and more accessible throughout the world and extremely popular in first world countries. 'We all are photographers' it seems. Under such circumstances, can the 'artist's eye' compete with that of an 'unaware' everyman? Hardly so. Media of mass communication allow for extensive voyeurism – not only can we see other people's lives, but also their pictures.
The images in the show simply do not correlate at all. In simple words – they make no sense. Nonprofessional photography paired with amateur curating? Not quite. The show is a mess with no concept. Juxtaposing dozens of unrelated photographs that do not interact with each other in any way seems senseless. And it is. However, we should not be discouraged. This bazaar-like cluster and its failure raise extremely important questions about photography today and the possibilities of exhibiting it.
We have seen it all (on youtube and flickr). The age of tricks, discoveries as well as that of an artist's touch is past. It is no longer possible to take a 'cool' picture, a 'new' picture, a picture that can really attract a conscious viewer. It is becoming harder and harder to produce a quality picture for a visually aware person – one simply cannot challenge the unaware. That 'unaware' is the very punctum of nonprofessional, amateur, non-artistic or plain photography.
Submerged in visual culture we have grown to accept imagery as it comes (and goes). It’s role has been reduced solely to that of communicating. Photography now is raw, unedited and instant. But it has lost its role of certifying the real – unless it is real itself. And it can only be real when it is undiscovered.
Curating a photographic exhibition must be a strenuous effort. Rarely can we find a photograph depicting something we have not seen yet – whatever should that be. We live in an over-photographed world. There already is too much photography about too much photography. Even to juxtapose is not enough – a simple image search online returns unexpected pairings that could never occur in the real world (unintentionally). Photo installations are just installations. It is completely irrelevant how an image is presented. To glance at 200 pictures on ones digital camera takes maybe a minute. The harder the challenge, the better the experience. And it must only be so hard because photography is so easy.
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Bartek Kraciuk is a freelance writer in New York.