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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).