Documentary and Neo-avant-garde. Photographic Practices in the 1970s

May 11 - 26, 2015 - 19:00 h
Andreas Seltzer & Dieter Hacker. Volksfoto: Foto kaput. Installation, Museum Bochum (Germany). Reconstruction in Not Yet. On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism, Museo Reina Sofía, 2015
Andreas Seltzer & Dieter Hacker. Volksfoto: Foto kaput. Installation, Museum Bochum (Germany). Reconstruction in Not Yet. On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism, Museo Reina Sofía, 2015

The exhibition Not Yet. On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism (Museo Reina Sofía, 10 February – 13 July, 2015) offers a context for the discussion on the reframing of documentary culture in the 1970s and 1980s. This exhibition continues and expands the research for A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker-Photography Movement 1926-1939 (Museo Reina Sofia, April - August, 2011). Both projects are contributions to a political history of the documentary discourse in photography, conceived as a tool for the self-representation of working and subaltern classes in processes of historical empowerment.

The time frame for this seminar is the so-called “long 1970s”, a nearly two-decade period of expansion of Neo-avant-gardist documentary discursive production in a context of deep institutional and educational transformations in photographic and artistic culture. It starts with the late 1960s experiences of the confluence between artists and social agents based on using cameras in contexts of protest and ends in the late 1980s with the collapse of public funding policies for alternative culture initiatives.

Organised in six sessions, this programme brings together international scholars to debate key aspects of the exhibition from different perspectives: the early sources for the reinvention of documentary initiated in the 1970s; the impact of May ‘68 on the seminal experiences of the confluence of film production and social movements; the second wave of the worker photography movement; the convergence of Marxism, Feminism and Cultural Studies in Britain that gave rise to a constellation of micro-political documentary practices; the incorporation of some of these critiques in mass photo-journalism, and Feminist photographic practices during Spain’s transition to democracy.


Actividad pasada May 11, 2015 - 7:00 p.m.
Steve Edwards. Further Afterthoughts on Documentary (in and around)

This talk will consider the critical reassessment of documentary that emerged during the 1970s. The presentation ranges across photography, film and theory, but is primarily focused on work from the USA and the UK that sought to reinvent documentary practice as a radical project.

Attention is given to works by Martha Rosler, Allan Sekula, Victor Burgin, and the Berwick Street Film Collective. The lecture addresses important differences and tensions between these new practices in documentary, offering a context for the exhibition Not Yet.

Steve Edwards is professor and head of the Department of Art History at the Open University, UK. He is the author of The Making of English Photography: Allegories (Penn State University Press, 2006) and his most recent book is Martha Rosler. The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (Afterall, 2012). He serves on the editorial boards of the Oxford Art Journal and Historical Materialism.

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Actividad pasada May 12, 2015 - 7:00 p.m.
María Rosón. Colita in Context: Photography and Feminism during Spain’s Transition to Democracy

Did Feminist photographic practices exist in Spain in the 1970s? How were they structured and what did they mean? With the aim of offering a series of notes that enrich the virtually non-existent Feminist historiography of Spanish photography, this proposal is structured around the study of photography published by Colita (Isabel Esteva Hernández. Barcelona, 1940) during Spain’s transition to democracy.

Understanding her photography in context, through her contributions to magazines such as Vindicación Feminista and Interviú, or in the book Antifémina (1977, in collaboration with Maria Aurèlia Capmany), enables the exploration of a praxis that moves beyond the author-artist perspective to offer a renewed point of view, not only of this photographer, but also of the relationship between photography and feminism in Spain in the 1970s.

María Rosón is a research associate from the Department of History and Art Theory at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Her field of research involves the study of the social uses of photography and the representations and constructions of gender in history and the cultural memory. She has curated exhibitions such as José Ortiz Echagüe: representando mujeres, tipos y estereotipos (José Ortiz Echagüe: Representing Women, Types and Stereotypes, CAM, Red Itiner, 2010) and Mujeres bajo sospecha. Memoria y sexualidad (Women Under Suspicion. Memory and Sexuality, 1930 – 1980), alongside Raquel Osborne (Department of Political Sciences and Sociology, UNED, 2013).

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Actividad pasada May 18, 2015 - 7:00 p.m.
Rolf Sachsse. Engaged Photography vs. Photographic Engagement
Remarks on the Second Generation of the Workers Photography Movement in the two Germanies

Following the 1968 students’ movements, a discussion of leftish media politics arose in Western Germany within and outside the universitarian circles – from debates on the photographic war journalism in Vietnam to questions of self-representations in the new communes. In 1973, several groups of union-near amateur photographers were constituted on local levels, naming themselves Arbeiterfotografie in the 1920s tradition; these groups were joined in the late 1970s by a number of student activities.

Moving nearer to the new communist party DKP at the same time, these groups received some funding from GDR administrations, which tried to integrate the Arbeiterfotografie tradition into their own photographic heritage. All of this was interwoven by a number of different theoretical approaches to German history, as well as in anti-fascism and new radical leftisms. The lecture will follow a number of these developments and show examples of the photographic work done therein.

Rolf Sachsse is a photography historian. Since 1995 he has been associate professor for Theories of Design at the Staatliche Hochschule fuer Gestaltung, Karlsruhe; and since 2004 he has held the seat in Design History and Design Theory at the Saar University of Fine Arts, Saarbruck.

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Actividad pasada May 19, 2015 - 7:00 p.m.
Sébastien Layerle. Struggle Cinema: the Medvedkin Groups and other Collaborative Film Practices in the Context of the 1968 Film Cultures

The French activist films of '68, inseparable from the social struggles of the time, are testimony to the fascination in the working class. This movement drove a significant number of film-makers directly into the factories, imposing new models of collective creation.

The hope of seeing authentic “working class films” made by and for the workers, influenced the whole period. Thus, in Besançon and Sochaux the Medvedkin groups’ films opposed a spirit of social and cultural emancipation, illustrating, with great invention, a different way to understand the political creation of images. This lecture endeavours to evoke, in the context of the period following May ‘68 in France, certain attempts to take ownership of “outil-cinéma” by, or in order to serve, the working class.

Sébastien Layerle is a professor at the University of Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 (IRCAV). His research is related to the connections between film, history and society through the study of activist films and social and political audiovisual documents from the 1960s and 1970s. Caméras en Lutte en Mai 68 (Nouveau Monde, 2008) is among his most notable publications.

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Actividad pasada May 25, 2015 - 7:00 p.m.
Carles Guerra. The Photojournalism of Meiselas: Mediation, Circulation and Revolution

Susan Meiselas openly revealed the cognitive limitations that besiege the photojournalist when they confront a complex event, for instance the Sandinista Revolution. Besides reporting and covering the facts, Meiselas introduced an unprecedented reflection on the role of the photographer in the revolutionary process, conceiving Mediations with this idea, a personal archive that took up the avatars of her own images published worldwide in the printed media.

Just as the artist and writer Hito Steyerl stated, we are facing an early case of “circulationism”, or as Guerra calls it, a good example of “anti-photojournalism”. In either case, this work revitalises the critical potential of a documentary genre habitually berated for its servility.

Carles Guerra is an artist, art critic and independent curator. He is associate professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and has been the director of the Virreina Centre de la Imatge and chief curator of MACBA. He has commissioned various projects on postmedia documentary practices, including Después de la noticia. Documentales postmedia (After the News. Postmedia Documentaries, CCCB, 2003) and Antifotoperiodismo (Anti-photojournalism, Virreina Centre de la Imatge and Foam, 2010).

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Actividad pasada May 26, 2015 - 7:00 p.m.
Siona Wilson. Feminism, Documentary and ‘People’s History’: In Light of Jo Spence

Jo Spence’s work as a photographer, educator, and cultural critic belongs to a broader radical anti-professional (although not anti-intellectual) cultural turn in 1970s Britain. Building on the post-war New Left traditions of “people’s history” and worker education, Spence’s social analysis of photography and her development of a critical, educative documentary practice was shaped by the transformative impact of the women’s movement.

This lecture will explore how feminist challenges to the long held oppositions between private/public, subjective/social, and personal/political are played out in a particularly significant way in Spence’s provocative work. In light of Spence’s heterodox practice, what kind of questions does it continue to provoke for the present-day proliferation of and social transformations in the digital traffic in photographs?

Siona Wilson is an associate professor at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of Art Labors, Sex Politics: Feminist Effects in 1970s British Art and Performance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200