Fotograf Magazine

Fotograf Festival – Off Limits

Photography in public space

Photography, the first in a series of technical images, gave rise to the foundations of our techno-imagination and consistently develops it on a daily basis with literally each step. Together with philosopher Vilém Flusser we can also consider film, to a certain extent, as a series of photographs proceeding one after another. Technical images have changed and are changing both our perception of images as such and also of perception itself. They are even changing our view of the immediately experienced present; through the viewfinder of a photographic or video camera we watch the personal histories of individuals and also the public history of any society, of any place, in a different way. Minor events and the “great history,” hitherto mostly written, are increasingly more often depicted, that is, documented with image. These images can be manipulated, retouched, edited further and oftentimes even re-edited. 

Together with advancing technical images, our view of the world around us is hereby changing; public and private spaces are being shaped and defined anew. Borders are blurring, becoming pervious, oftentimes disappearing. What does the phrase “public space” mean to us today? What is and what can then be public art? Who is the public? If the feminist exclamation – Private is Public! – still holds today, it is then possible, for example, to also visually appropriate all that is public… 
If we take these words into account, public space, illuminated by post-feminist theory, appears to be fluid, possibly expandable, and like an endless cosmos. 

The presentation and distribution of photographs is much faster these days. Images are literally floating about and around us. This big river with its undercurrents and unexplored tributaries is both a spring and a drain. With the Fotograf Festival – Off Limits, we are seeking (for this elemental visual current) interspaces and thin permeable projection screens, membranes, open to passage, on the borders between internal and external spaces: store windows, display cases, signs, ads, glass concierge booths, windowless facades, courtyards, gardens, squares and waterfronts. We are searching for half-forgotten and low-key spots, busy traffic junctions, billboards having been critically judged, sleeping cultural landmarks, shopping centers, art house cinemas and pop casinos, which can become temporary landings for photographic images. 

To what degree will we be capable and willing to consciously cultivate our imagination and even our techno-imagination during encounters with more and more photographic and film images? Viewing transparently will only indicate to us the process of a photograph’s creation. This view will indicate its formal framework, and the festival‘s accompanying program will help each of us look behind it from a modified perspective. 

In October, art photographs, documentations of artist projects, or even videos and films will mingle with advertisements, traffic signs, building numbers and street names, and with maps and other information. They will blend into the pulsating, living tissue of the city. If they permeate the membranes of store windows and placards amid pedestrians, means of transportation and omnipresent merchandise, will these photographs, actions and performances, inspired by photography, stand out amongst other images, or will they vanish in the flood? Does this art, floating between inner and external environments, between pubic and private spaces, use some sort of mimicry? Will these inconspicuous projects, processes and even visible, at first glance, photographic assaults on our eyes and minds turn out to only be more visual junk mail? Will they be more visual noise and smog for the city? 

This year‘s Fotograf Festival, entitled Off Limits, poses these questions and additional ones to itself and to everybody else. Prague will be characterized by the interventions of photographers and artists working with photography; it will be characterized by both non-photographers and traditionalists; it will be flooded with photographic and film images, with both light and physical interventions, with ephemeral acts and performances. The second year of the Fotograf Festival, bearing the name “Off Limits,” even invites digital photography to meet analog photography. It invites you to open debates about contemporary photography and about the possibilities of its publishing, and, in a broader context, to debates about contemporary art. In October 2012, Prague should be more than just an appealing backdrop for the Fotograf Festival: and its public could be more than just an audience. 

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#20 Public Art