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Exhibition

Interphoto 2019

From past to present. The limits of time

“Photography has been revealed […] in its most original, basic form: as a document and record of time. Each individual photograph retains some fraction of time, together they create an orderly record of its elapse.”
Lech Lechowicz

We usually think of time in the simple categories of past, present and future. This is true in photography as well—once the camera’s lens captures a scene, the moment becomes a part of what already passed, a part of history. However, one could say that a photograph that was just taken refers to the present and the future. A picture from a far-off country may stir its beholder’s imagination and bring out a desire for travel—a desire for what lies ahead. The photographic process is ingrained in the future as well. As photosensitive material is exposed to light, it creates an invisible latent image, which is going to undergo processing to reveal its contents later. Take the time to recall Alexander Gardner’s famous portrait of Lewis Payne, on death row for his involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He is alive while the picture is being taken, yet his heartbeat will cease in a moment. To quote St. Augustine: “If nothing passed away, there would be no past time; and if nothing were still coming, there would be no future time; and if there were nothing at all, there would be no present time.” In other words, the present moment is realized by that which was and that which will be, and a portrayal of “death” (after all, time is embalmed in photography) brings a reflection on the inevitable.

Contrary to the Platonic theory of ideas, “in photography, the presence of the thing […] is never metaphoric,” says Roland Barthes, and each thing depicted is considered the “private appearance of its referent.” It’s an impartial witness, a footprint, a slice of reality. Thusly we can take part in past events. We interact with the past not only in the cognitive-anthropological sense, but we also come face to face with what really was. Although mysterious and inaccessible, a photograph assures us of its subject’s existence. This certainty comes from an interpretation of “what-has-been.” It testifies to a presence within time. Although it restrains recollection, it is memorial of past moments. It makes the past as real as the present. And although the present “slips through our fingers,” in photography we can “take hold of the past.”

This year’s International Photography Festival Białystok Interphoto features artists whose works, in many different aspects, relate to the heterogenous concepts of Time. Artists who work with the photographic medium in the context of linear flow and capture. Others, who reflect on the Barthesian punctum, or who symbolically evoke sociohistorical elements in their image, as well as the artists whose vision and innovative frame influenced the contemporary forms of expression employed by successive generations.

Historical exhibitions, for example, Polish and Czech avant-garde or subjective photography in Polish art, will expose the continuum of changes not only in the medium, but also in modern understanding and reception of art.

Presenting the public with postmodernist criticism on appropriation and record will uncover contemporary photography as a tool for control. From almost the very beginning of the modern age we are strongly linked to the past, not necessarily ours. An immobile picture captures time and becomes like an incorruptible memory. This trustworthiness brings out feelings of unwavering endurance and stability. Photography does not recollect the past, but ascertains it. What is seen in the picture truly did exist. A photograph is indisputable. History that is recorded on celluloid or digitally is true. It serves as proof for historians, architects, sociologists, and all researchers of the past as well as private, personal, individual stories. Although, what is a “true” narrative.

Human memories are temporary and individual. They slowly disperse and decay. They are obstructed by other events. They vanish with every cell, all of which are designed to end. During the Interphoto Festival we will consider if the testimony of photography isn’t far superior to this. If it can be reproduced and become durable. If the camera should become humanity’s instrument in creating infallible and true memory that future generations could refer to.

“The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image that flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again.”
Walter Benjamin

Grzegorz Jarmocewicz
Artistic Director of the festival

29 IX–15 X 2019
Wstęp wolny
Sala Wystawowa, Foyer Górne, Foyer Dolne / Odeska 1

Heikki Leis

Post-truth era
There is a widely known saying that we are living in the post-truth era right now. Nobody seems to know wherein lies the truth and what appears to be a lie. Everyone can bring up hundreds of contradicting evidences and claim nearly anything they want. There are heaps of information and it is difficult to get a grip of it, to dig deeper for some background information and so people just make claims. It is not much different in photography. We all know of cases where photos have been faked just to be later presented as documentary photography. It has become quite common that items will be added or deleted to and from photos, just to give the photograph the right “air.” Sometimes other artists’ photos are stolen, given a few changes and then presented as a new piece of art. Photoshop seems to be almighty and happily blurs the lines of photography and photo manipulation. This series of photos, however, is taken onto glass negatives, there is no manipulation, everything is presented exactly the way things were. There has been a cover-up of years, even centuries, but the proof is now right in front of you: Turns out that, for instance, smart phones and laptops existed already at the beginning of last century. Not to even mention earphones which monks have been using for a long time in the monasteries. Art can be the source of truth as reality as well.

Heikki Leis (b. 1973) was born in Tartu, Estonia. He graduated from Tartu Art Grammar School and later masonry and sculpture faculty in Tartu Art School in 1991. He works as a freelance artist since 2000. He does mostly hyperrealistic pen and pencil drawings and also sculpture. Since 2004 he is also an avid photographer and takes part in exhibitions. His biggest passion is analogue photography, he uses both mid- and large format cameras.

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas

A-spot
There are people who watch football. There are others who go fishing. These people go out to watch airplanes. Admiration for aviation has been around ever since the first flying machines took to the air. While many kids of the second half of the 20th century remember a weekend ritual of being taken by their parents to the neighbourhood of an airport to watch airplanes, today plane spotting is a complex phenomenon, composed of numerous wheres, whys, whens, whats, hows, and wows. Some airports have observation areas, elevated decks, spaces for people to watch planes, that allow aviation enthusiasts to get close enough to be able to see the pilots in the cockpit, hear the roar of the jet engines. People come to A-spots to take pictures, take notes of tailnumbers of planes, combine the thrill of aviation view and sound with sports activities, meals or drinks, education of children, romance or even therapy. Inevitably, people come here to say goodbye to their close ones and to watch their airplanes take off, while others contemplate airliners land and take-off in an attempt to overcome homesickness. For a true aviation geek, coming to a spotting area can be but a small part of a pilgrimage to the next place of adventure, outside a different airport, abroad or even on a different continent. “A-spot” pictures were taken in and around airports of Auckland (New Zealand); Europe: Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Istanbul, Lisbon, London, Paris, Riga, Toulouse, Vilnius, Warsaw, Zurich; Unites States: Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DCand, of course, on Maho beach of the Island of St Maarten. “A-spot,” started in 2015, is the second part of the “travel’AIR” project by Mindaugas Kavaliauskas, exploring the man’s relationship to passenger aviation.

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (b. 1974 in Kaunas) is a Lithuanian photographer and art director living in Kaunas. He is a member of the Lithuanian Photographers association since 1993. His interest in documentary photography lead him to create his signature work “Portrait of Kražiai” (2001–2003), which was widely exhibited in Europe and beyond. After founding the Kaunas Photo festival (2004), less time for personal creation was left. While frequently flying to and from exhibitions, festivals and portfolio reviews in Europe and beyond its borders, he discovered that a camera could be used to depict the human condition in airports, airliners and around them. This is how the idea of the “travel’AIR” project was born.

Jiří Šigut

Latence
“Photographic paper, pregnant with silver nitrates, placed out in nature and exposed to the elements, sometimes even for several weeks. Often ruined, stripped of its emulsion, or infested with mold. With imprints of the forest, the warmth of dying oxbow arms, turf, fallen leaves, reflections on the surface of the water, or clods of earth on a plowed field. I am fascinated by the photographic paper’s ability to work with time, to absorb light and energy. Its capacity for faithfully depicting and subsequently preserving what is transient. I have been placing photographic paper out in nature for several years now, and even after all this time my evening trips into the forests and fields, far from the noise of the city, my personal and intimate performances in which I am alone in the middle of the night feeling like a tiny part of the world and the universe, trying to find my path and my place on this earth, loses none of its urgency—quite the opposite, in fact. I often lack the words to express my feelings, but the papers remain, with their subtle records of the movement of the wind, the flowing of the water, the fallen leaves… an imprint of the world.”
Jiří Šigut
Translation from Czech Stephan von Pohl

Jiří Šigut (b. 1960 in Ostrava-Vítkovice) is a photographer. From 1985 to 1991, he intentionally refrained from interfering with the process of long exposure in his work, developing a non-artistic, unfettered style. In the early 1990s, he abandoned the traditional photographic concept of the negative and positive. He has since recorded his activities and processes in nature directly onto the sensitive layer of the photographic paper, utilizing natural sources of light and energy (daylight, the moon, stars, fire, fireflies…). The function of the emulsion transcends its photographic function and represents the light-sensitivity of all matter. He views his work of placing papers in nature (for days or weeks at a time) as a ritual activity. Josef Moucha, a Czech photography historian, counts Šigut among the twenty Czech authors who pushed the envelope in terms of the use of the artistic potential of the photographic medium in the 20th century.

Dates and hours

29 IX
19.00 The opening
20.30 Ilo & Friends concert

30 IX–3 X / 9.00–19.00
4 X / closed
5 X / 11.30–18.00
6 X / 11.30–17.00
7 X / 9.00–18.00
8–11 X / 9.00–19.00
12 X / 11.30–18.00
13 X / 11.30–17.00
14 X / 9.00–18.00
15 X / 9.00–19.00

3 XI
16.00 PhotoPicnic summarising this year’s festival

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