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Image and Context. A Few Terminological Remarks on the Semantic Anomaly of Images

Symposium
image/con/text

Images shape the human relation to world and self. Presumably, they do this as fundamentally as language. However, the mechanisms we rely on in pictorial display and linguistic communication are very different. The proposition I would like to discuss in this presentation is that the objective basis of these different mechanisms lies in a semantic anomaly of images which connects perceptual immediacy with communicative uncertainty in a characteristic way. In contrast to language, this anomaly gives images greater efficacy at the expense of increased dependence on context.

Text-Image Relations in Documentary Comics. An Intermedial Dialogue

Symposium
image/con/text

Kai Pfeiffer, excerpt from the drawn theatre critique Dionysos Stadt – Erinnerungen an eine Inszenierung, published May 2019 at nachtkritik.de

When we speak of the relationship between images and text, the comic as medium inevitably comes into focus. In linguistic-graphic communication, we want to explore the extent to which the various techniques of the comic can be suitable for application in other text-image relationships. First and foremost, this concerns questions of documentation and information transfer: what can texts express; what can pictures tell us; what can the two convey together? What messages arise when these two media join forces?
In terms of form, we would like to dare an experiment: we do not wish to simply discuss the relationship between linguistic and visual codes. Rather, we will attempt to perform the discourse itself by means of speaking, writing, drawing and charting.

‘Image et Parole’ – Scenarios of the Criticism of Words and Images in the Work of Jean-Luc Godard since 1968

“The goal was to separate image from sound”, was the response from Swiss-French film artist Jean-Luc Godard to a question from a journalist who was interviewing him at a press conference set up on the occasion of the Cannes Film Festival for his current film Le Livre d’image (The Image Book, 2018). The working title ‘Image et Parole’ (Image and Word), which was retained as the subtitle, already hints at the fact that the connection of image and language, which is accepted as a matter of course and which characterises the audiovisual medium of film, is here no longer assumed unconditionally. In the process, Godard returns to considerations he formulated as far back as 50 years ago. The year 1968 marks a crucial line of demarcation in the film artist’s work, one that can particularly be detected in the films La Chinoise (1967) and Le gai savoir (1969). Nietzschean nihilism, from which the latter borrowed its title, serves as a starting point for critical reflexion. Television would henceforth be chosen as a medium of this process. In this context, the episode Photo et Cie, which Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville created specifically for television as one part of their video series Six fois deux (1976), is particularly remarkable. My presentation will focus on these various historical points, from where it will shed new light on the relationship between images and language.

Image/Text – Image/Hypertext

Symposium
image/con/text

Collectif Obvious, Portrait of Edmond de Belamy, 2018, 70,0 x 70,0 cm. This painting from the French collective Obvious was made (and signed) by an algorithm. It recently sold for $432,500 at Christie’s auction house.

Words influence images, and images influence the words with which they are associated. In the conventional relationship between a photo and its caption the words are often used to precipitate a kind of quantum collapse in which the ambiguities of the image are constrained to a specific meaning. A more productive photo-text relationship is one in which the two media are allowed their separate voices, each amplifying (and sometimes contradicting) the other. In the hypertext, or hypermedia, the non-linear narrative encourages an often more ludic approach in which multiple meanings of both text and image are elicited depending upon where their places are in the various sequences. Photos can be image-mapped so that certain regions of the image lead into one narrative while other regions take the reader elsewhere. Or, more transgressively, the code of the image (or text) can be output as other media, such as music. Throughout all of this, the reader has greater and lesser possibilities to collaborate in determining meaning.

Counter Narratives: The Visual and the Written in German Images ̶ Looking for Evidence and Postcards from Europe

Symposium
image/con/text

Eva Leitolf, Plantage, Rosarno, Italien, 2010, from the work
Postcards from Europe, since 2006.

In Deutsche Bilder – eine Spurensuche (German Images – Looking for Evidence) Eva Leitolf investigates racist and xenophobic crimes in Germany and the ways they are discussed in society. The artist examines in Postcards from Europe the ways the European Union deals with its external borders and the associated internal conflicts. Eva Leitolf’s works relate images of places with carefully researched texts about past events at those sites. The interplay of image and text explores the phenomena of xenophobia and migration as well as aspects of perception, processes of formation of meaning and the bounds and possibilities of representation.

The Borrowed Archive: Collaborative Practices of the Kashmir Photo Collective

Symposium
image/con/text

Pandit Tarachand Mattoo, Revenue Minister of the Dogra Court, ca. 1870, The Mattoo Collection/Kashmir Photo Collective.

The collaborative practices of the Kashmir Photo Collective – a digital archive populated by photographic collections and historical material originating in the Kashmir Valley – are essential to the challenge that they present to conventional conceptions of family archives and especially to the pedagogical and scholarly potential of family photographs. For KPC, collaboration begins in the homes of the Kashmiri families where the collections are digitised, the space to which KPC returns repeatedly for gathering image context. This paper will reveal how memories – which appear as fragmented narratives during the archival act – are transformed through handwritten inscription by the archivist, and why this mode of memory-making allows the agency of the borrowed archive to remain with the progenitor of the album.

Show, Don’t Tell? Research-based Photobooks by Laia Abril, Christian Patterson and Regine Petersen

Symposium
image/con/text

Laia Abril, The Epilogue, Cover,
Stockport 2014.

The Epilogue (Laia Abril, 2014) and Find a Fallen Star (Regine Petersen, 2015): both photobook’s titles carry the conclusion of the events they want to tell about. And both books are what one could call research-based, photobooks that are preceded by intensive research, books that tell multimedia stories in order to reconstruct – at least in these two cases: In Abril’s work, the knowledge of the already deceased protagonist’s bulimia is presented as a different temporal segment, and the family’s ignorance is reflected through the ignorance of the reader. Petersen, who has investigated several cases of meteorite impacts, also ponders on how something can be shown that cannot (any longer) be seen. Both books do this with a variety of objects: from the advertisement to the letter, the most diverse forms of found objects are equalised into the image, knowing fully well that semantics of the document are transmitted or even evoked. In comparison with the photobook Redheaded Peckerwood (Christian Patterson, 2010) I would like to diversify and differentiate the ‘genre’ of research-based photobooks. My contribution is dedicated to the narrative ‘between’ image and text and its epistemic consequences. Methodically, I will ask myself what pictorial evidence procedures can be found in research-based photobooks, whereby I will also devote myself to the narration between image and text in order to look at the entire book structure in its epistemological consequences.

Bending the Screen: Ekphrasis, Plain Sight and the Monster within

Symposium
image/con/text

Crofton Black/Edmund Clark, Negative Publicity, Cover, New York 2015.

In Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, documentary, and the Citizen Prof. Fred Ritchin calls for image makers to seek new or alternative ways to make work to engage audiences and ideally affect change. Bending the Screen is a response to or an extension of that call. As the title of this talk suggests, however, the emphasis is shifted to think about the screens on which image makers and their audiences receive information about the subjects they explore.
Before bending their frames image makers must naturally consider how these subjects are represented and be aware of the images and texts that are present in their audiences’ minds or, indeed, absent. It is only through reflecting on the nuanced way information (image, text and imagetext) is imparted and received that artists, photographers and activists can hope to find strategies that reconfigure, question and ideally affect representation and even action.
This talk will consider my interest in the visuality of text in relation to ideas of evidence, absence and understanding with reference to four examples of my work: Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out, Orange Screen, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition and My Shadow’s Reflection. It will reflect on unseen processes and experiences of contemporary conflict and incarceration.

Margins of Excess: Text and Image in the Contemporary Documentary Photobook

Symposium
image/con/text

Max Pinckers, The Apple That Wasn’t, from the work Margins of Excess, 2018.

Max Pinckers will present his recent book Margins of Excess (self-published, 2018) with a particular focus on how image-text relationships form documentary narratives. Not believing in an absolute truth or ultimate position of epistemological authority, his documentary works bring together multiple perspectives in which texts sampled from existing sources are encountered with photographs in order to create a narrative context. In Pinckers’ photobooks, reality and fiction are intertwined. Not to fool us, but to reveal a more intricate view of our world, which takes into account the intersubjective and fictitious nature of the categories we use to perceive and define it.

Photography in Purgatory

Symposium
image/con/text

Joan Fontcuberta, Mictlan#04499, 2019.

Most of my projects are conceived as narrative structures. Because of that, I usually deal in both photography and writing. I will be discussing several of earlier bodies of work but will focus on current research on damaged photographs, which are seen as ruins of photographic materiality but also as pretexts for speculative stories. This project is originally rooted in a historical fact: Nils Strindberg’s photographs from Andrée’s tragic Arctic Expedition in 1897. The exposed negatives were only found 33 years after Strindberg’s death, together with the letters he wrote to his fiancée during the almost three months he and his two partners wandered lost on the Arctic ice desert.