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RSF - Rivista di studi di fotografia

Performing the image to see otherwise.

Since I first encountered photography in the early 1990s, I have understood the art form as a relational activity and, at the same time, as a space for questions and reflections.

More recently, I realised the medium is also functioning as a sort of engine of visualisation (technology of seeing) and as an ideological dispositive of control which worldwide utilisation is altering and affecting the way we perceive, memorise and relate with photographed subject.

Considering the quantity of photographs created globally every second, it looks likes we have been programmed to believe that photographing is equal to create information and evidence, and that there are millions of people waiting to benefit from this activity. But what is not clear to many of us is that by photographing we are participating not only in the creation of a framed simulation of the real but also in the codification of the real into numerical algorithms (digital visualisation).

Every epoch is characterised by a specific ideology; in the name of ‘progress’ we are

indoctrinating each other to believe that technological computation have the capacity

(power) to create order, resolve problems and explain the unknown.

Nobody can object the contribution of photographic knowledge in the construction of an incredibly complex networked simulation (stored memory) of the real but at the same time nobody can disbelieve that this type of knowledge is distancing us from the

compulsory target of peaceful coexistence and preservation.

If attention, love, time, energy and resources are continuously allocated toward the

expansion and preservation of the simulated /photographic reality (image of the world), our actual world will continue to be secondary, unjust, deprived, neglected and

consumed. Furthermore, the same simulated construction affecting our consciousness, that produces our desires and drives our ethics, is rooted on colonial principles of supremacy, meritocracy, individualism.

Change is necessary but how do we activate this transformation?

For Vilém Flusser the act of photography is an act of philosophy: ‘by photographing we

are not changing the world we are living in but we are changing the way we perceive it.’

Flusser understood photography as a product of the apparatus upon which it is

dependent, producing an entire system upon the function of the technical image (the

photograph), which is an image not of the phenomenal world but of scientific texts (code), upon which apparatuses developed.

He also saw in photography the ultimate remedy to counteract the program of

technology and he specifically encouraged professional photographers to produce new

photographs charged with a different intentionality: to free the human consciousness from scientific rationality and its infinite proliferation of the calculus.What gets photographed becomes coded, turned into calculus and dominated by the

existing system of thought.

Taking Flusser’s invitation as an on-going artistic project, I developed the PhotoPerformer as a conceptual alter-ego through which I perform photography as a modality for critical awareness and change. After all, photography, like most of our inventions, mirrors aspects of our human nature like the inborn need for self-transformation. We humans, like any other beings are defined by changeability, and, although we are constantly conditioned by external social/political/economic agents, we are permanently (re)producing other- selves. Let’s think for a second about how susceptible and open to change we are by noting how the type and quantity of food in and out of our digestive system can alter or transform our bodies.

The PhotoPerformer aims to help me to recognise, deconstruct, and transform my

predominant, white, male, privileged perspective, and, more generally, it provides a

praxis of actualisation of the imagined through which I can test and experience alternative beings infused with fantasies and narratives.

I’m learning to welcome and exercise the magical, paradoxical and equivocal as

fundamental qualities of alternative frames through which to see, experience, and make sense of what surrounds me.

In other words, the PhotoPerformer constitutes a kind of philosophy-in-action through

which not only I can inhabit and expose the inherent contradictions characterising the

photographic image but I can also attempt to sabotage its built-in program.

Flusser, Vilém. 1983. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. London: Reaktion Books.

Flusser, Vilém. 2011 [1985]. Into the Universe of Technical Images. Minneapolis, MN:

University of Minnesota Press.


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Performing the image to see otherwise
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