artists & participants
When in spring 2007 the idea was born of a contemporary reinterpretation of Edward Steichen's seminal exhibition The Bitter Years, shown in 1962 at New York's Museum of Modern Art, no one could have guessed that its staging would coincide with a global financial crisis. Featuring a series of photographs commissioned in the 1930s by the US Farm Security Administration (FSA), The Bitter Years documented the effects on America of the great financial crisis that followed the infamous "Black Thursday", as the stock market crash of 1929 came to be called. Organised at the outset of the post-war economic miracle, Steichen's exhibition sounded like a warning and effectively invested photography with a moral mission in an era equally marked by the dawning of consumerism and the constant nuclear threat (1962 was the year of the Cuban missile crisis).
Great Expectations merges references to the economic downturn of the 1930s with reminiscences of the yet unabated faith in progress that characterised the 1960s, while hinting to the current situation — a condition which, although it appears to echo these historic events, does so on a global scale of hitherto unparalleled complexity. Yet wealth and progress seem unaffected by the immediate threat posed by the shortage of resources, environmental pollution and rising extremisms.
In the course of globalisation the free market economy has become the determining factor of all human endeavours. The mass media have imposed their point of view, while marketing practices, both commercial and political, are dominating the debate or attempt to strengthen their influence. As a result, it has become much more difficult for artists to promote dissident views: whereas the dominant means of production had previously been confined to commodities or services, they have long since invested the realm of ideas and feelings and asserted their prevalence.
Photography can therefore no longer, as in Steichen's day, rely on its purportedly self-explanatory documentary nature to promote an ideal vision. In today's era of ubiquitous propaganda based on the manipulative potential of images, the credibility of photographic recordings is called into question, and so is the validity of its immediacy in terms of communicative impact. Compositional elements, such as those that once guided Steichen's choice of images for The Bitter Years, no longer play a decisive role, since arranging reality, both before and after the recording, has become common practice. This shift in the (self)understanding of photography is an integral part of a process we have come to term "globalisation".
But even today art finds alternative means to represent and question the social status quo. The works in this exhibition draw loosely on Steichen's theme, shedding light, through the objective of documentary or conceptual photography, on the conflicts of modern life as they are seen by today's journalists, photographers and artists.
Vahram Aghasyan, Éric Baudelaire, Frédéric Delangle, Martin Eder, Iván Edeza, Lukas Einsele, Patrick Galbats, Dionisio González, Peter Granser, Stanley Greene, Joachim Koester, Laurence Leblanc, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Adi Nes, Suzanne Opton, Ari Saarto, Bruno Serralongue, Melanie Smith, Jules Spinatsch, Sada Tangara, Guy Tillim, Kai Wiedenhöfer
Curators: Paul di Felice & Pierre Stiwer (Café-Crème asbl) and Enrico Lunghi The exhibition is part of the European Month of Photography.
only in german
Great Expectations -
Contemporary photography looks at today's Bitter Years
Kuratoren: Paul di Felice & Pierre Stiwer, Enrico Lunghi
Künstler: Vahram Aghasyan, Eric Baudelaire, Frederic Delangle, Martin Eder, Ivan Edeza, Lukas Einsele, Patrick Galbats, Dionisio Gonzalez, Peter Granser, Stanley Greene, Joachim Koester, Laurence Leblanc, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Adi Nes, Suzanne Opton, Ari Saarto, Bruno Serralongue, Melanie Smith, Jules Spinatsch, Sada Tangara, Guy Tillim, Kai Wiedenhöfer