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Camera Austria International 125 | 2014



13. 3. 2014, 6 p.m.
Magazine Release at Camera Austria, Graz

15. 3. 2014, 12 – 9 p.m.
it’s a book, Leipzig

10. 4. – 13. 4. 2014
Art Cologne, Hall 11.3, Art Papers

25. 4. – 27. 4. 2014
Art Brussels

25. 4. – 27. 4. 2014
Paris Photo Los Angeles

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Three contributions by Nan Goldin have been published in our magazine since 1988: a letter from Christine Frisinghelli to the artist (1988), the facsimile of a handwritten obituary for Cookie Mueller (1992), and, not until issue No. 50, a text by Peter Schjeldahl about her portraits (1995). In a remarkable way, Goldin long resisted the coupling of text and image that is so characteristic for Camera Austria International. The first contribution mentioned above was published in the context of the exhibition and symposium “The Contemporary”, which also dealt with a “radicalization of the personal element in relation to this reality”. From today’s perspective looking back, Goldin’s contributions assert her presence, even when it comes to the opposition shown towards a discursive logic of utilisation. The artist Tobias Zielony—guest editor of issue No. 114 (2011)—met with Nan Goldin in Berlin in January 2014 for a conversation that now, after many years, has once again opened a context for her artwork. But even this discussion does not primarily touch on photography or art; it deals with people, their histories and fates, with drugs, love, and AIDS.
The point of departure for the issue at hand partially originates with the history of the Camera Austria organisation itself. In 1989, the cultural department of the City of Graz made an offer, on the occasion of “150 Years of Photography”, to support larger-scale projects in order to emphasise the significance of contemporary photography in Graz. The first related exhibition was called “No. 1 Stadtpark”, which was accompanied by an eponymous publication; it presented those artists who were working in the area surrounding the Forum Stadtpark in Graz, to which Camera Austria also belonged at the time. What is more, the magazine’s publisher Manfred Willmann had the idea to confer an award (of which there were very few at the time, even internationally) to honour the photographic artists associated with Camera Austria who have made “a noteworthy contribution … in Camera Austria since 1980” (as the statute reads). In 1989, the Camera Austria Award for Contemporary Photography by the City of Graz was thus presented for the first time—to Nan Goldin. Since then, it has been awarded by an international jury every two
All other artists that we are (once again) introducing in this issue have, like Nan Goldin, been recipients of the Camera Austria Award: Seiichi Furuya (1993), Allan Sekula (2001), and Joachim Koester (2013). Seiichi Furuya counts among the founding members of Camera Austria; in 1975 he came to Graz from Vienna and took part in an exhibition programme at Forum Stadtpark. A portrait of his wife Christine graced the cover of the first issue of Camera Austria. The autobiographical archive created between 1978, the year the two met, and 1985, the year Christine committed suicide, forms the heart of Furuya’s oeuvre. However, in the current issue, Maren Lübbke-Tidow writes about a different pivotal work by Furuya that was created between 1981 and 1983 in Austria. “Staatsgrenze / Border” can be read as an attempt at surveying the space to which his migration to Europe led him, where Furuya has now been living for over thirty-five years, though still remaining a foreigner. Not only has a significant amount of time elapsed since these photographs were taken—also, the series deals with a very different (national) space in that the border has eminently shifted in meaning, while still retaining a semblance of its former import. Against this background the series gains topicality, especially because it makes it possible to project onto one another differing concepts of “border”.
The fact that Allan Sekula plays an important role in our work is likewise demonstrated by the fact that four of his contributions were published in our magazine between 1988 and 2002. Positioned at the heart of the Symposion über Fotografie XVI (Symposium on Photography XVI) in 1996, conceptualised in collaboration with the artist, was his pivotal project “Fish Story” from the previous year. The link between photography and economy in many of Sekula’s projects—from “Aerospace Folk Tales” (1973) to “TITANIC’s wake” (2000)—always saw photography itself as a form of production. In the artist’s most important essay, “The Traffic in Photographs” (1981), Sekula phrases this fundamental question: “Can traditional photographic representation, whether symbolist or realist in its dominant formal rhetoric, transcend the pervasive logic of the commodity form, the exchange abstraction that haunts the culture of capitalism?” His critique of photography thus has implied criticism of capitalist and postcapitalist society. Perhaps this is the reason why his work in the United States has seen little resonance to date, as recently lamented by Benjamin Buchloh: “The very criteria of this exclusion give us an astonishing insight, underscoring the fact that total depolitization appears to be the precondition of cultural recognition …” (Artforum International, January 2014). Since Sekula’s politicising way of approaching the photographic image has already been presented in our magazine several times, we asked Kaucyila Brooke, an old friend and colleague of Allan Sekula’s at the California Institute of the Arts, to write a personal text about his work.
The artistic work of Joachim Koester, the current award recipient for the year 2013, has also served as a reference point for us in previous years. In 2006 and 2009, we exhibited his series “Histories” (2003–05) and “Morning of the Magicians” (2005) in a two-part exhibition project on Conceptualism in photography. Of main focus here were questions about the relationship between image and knowledge as well as image and history. Such relations may also be considered to characterise Koester’s work, for various projects he has done in recent years repeatedly deal with revisiting neglected, almost forgotten events or historical contexts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His works often feature elements of an obscure, irrational, subconscious, or repressed nature as related to modernist development: spiritualism, occultism, drugs, failed projects. Yet Koester was not solely concerned with (again) making visible this “other” facet of modernism, but also with emphasising its significance for that which we call modernism. The same can be said of the series “Some Boarded Up Houses” (2009–14): “… he locates precise sites at the intersection of predatory lending practices, speculative capitalism, and a particularly American approach to the buying, selling, and acceptance of debt”, as Dan Byers notes in his essay about this work.
In the current issue Alanna Lockward starts her series of essays, which over the course of this year will make up the Column section. In our view, her project “Decolonial Aesthetics/AestheSis” and the related decolonisation of the gaze already in this issue provides an important extended framework for discourse on modernism and its production of visibilities.
In publishing the 125th edition of our magazine, it is once again high time to extend warm thanks to our subscribers, readers, and advertising partners for continuing to share our interest in the specific explorative questions that, in our opinion, can only be found in the joint context of photography and art. These are issues that can still be translated into the space of the magazine, despite this medium having aged somewhat considering that it now appears to be surrounded by countless online forms of publication and distribution. In our work, we still strongly appreciate the commitment to artistic positions, but also the opportunity to organise a field of visuality and knowledge in magazine form.

Reinhard Braun
and the Camera Austria Team
March 2014




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