The CORPUS is a collection of artworks, technical devices, and other examples relevant for the topic of the project. Together with the TAGS assigned to each work, the collection will continuously evolve as research progresses. Our aim is to compile an extensive, annotated database that serves as a useful tool and reference point for scholars, artists, curators, and students.
The CORPUS brings together a great diversity of photographic and cinematic practices, which demonstrate a critical engagement with the conventional apparatus (French “dispositif”). The term “apparatus” is not restricted to the technical parts of the mechanism; it also includes the processes of production (how the artist interacts with the medium and material) and reception. Conceived as an interwoven system of technical, material, production, and spectatorial aspects, the specificity of each arrangement contributes to an understanding of how contemporary artists dismantle, modify, adapt, and reset the apparatus, pushing its conceptual and material boundaries to the limit and transform it into new figurations.
The TAGS provide curatorial guidance by allocating various modes of critical approach to the traditional apparatus. As opposed to strict, exclusive categories, these tags should be seen as indications of the many possible ways to view the respective artwork.
Texts signed "Ju.Ju.Li." have been written by the RESET THE APPARATUS! research team (Edgar Lissel, Gabriele Jutz, Nina Jukić).
This tag features projects and artifacts that focus on the convergence of analog and digital technologies, resulting in hybrid forms neither purely analog nor digital.
Although it has been predicted that digital technologies will completely replace the analog in many fields of culture, especially in film and photography, today we not only witness efforts to preserve and revive the analog, there is also a growing interest among artists and amateurs to bring the analog and the digital together in new, unexpected ways. “Analogital” is a term coined by Verena Kuni to “mark a broader scope of possible relationships between ‘hybrid unions’ of analog and digital” (Kuni 2015: 2). In the words of Marshall McLuhan, “hybrid unions breed furious releases of energy and change” (McLuhan 2001: 54). Our aim is to explore precisely this new release of energy that transcends binary oppositions in technology as well as in culture.
Verena Kuni, “F (ANALOGITAL),” in Post-Digital Culture, eds. Daniel Kulle et al. (Berlin: 2015), http://www.post-digital-culture.org/kuni.
Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (London: Routledge, 2001).
“Body Involvement” describes an observer who physically interacts with the apparatus, as well as artistic practices in which very close or even actual bodily contact between the artist and the light sensitive surface take place.
Technical media such as photography and film usually keep the body at a distance, and therefore fulfill the Modernist paradigm of ocularcentrism – that is, an objective eye seemingly detached from the rest of the body. “Body Involvement,” however, investigates corporeal interactions with the material and the machine/apparatus from two points of view: (1) the artists themselves enact a creative bodily relationship with the light sensitive surface and the apparatus; (2) the viewers turn into active participants of the artwork’s coming into being by themselves manipulating the machine (Strauven 2011).
Wanda Strauven, “The Observer’s Dilemma. To Touch or Not to Touch,” in Media Archaeology. Approaches, Applications, and Implications, eds. Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2011), pp. 148–163.
By Other Means
This category focuses on the ways in which photography or film are translated into other – non-photographic or non-cinematic – media, forms, or techniques that existed before the artistic use of photographic or cinematic apparatuses.
Artworks that fall into this category fulfill two requirements: First, they have to be executed with other means than photographic or cinematic artistic media; and second, these media must have existed before photographic or cinematic artistic practices were established – for instance drawing, writing, or performance. All of the projects collected here address the photographic or the cinematic through cross-media practices.
“By other means” de-emphasizes the importance of the material properties of the medium itself in favor of its conceptual dimension or generative idea. This conceptual perspective allows for a fuller understanding of the critical potential inherent to technology. According to Pavle Levi, the only way to maintain the utopian potential originally contained in any new medium before it becomes standardized is to repeatedly evoke and enact the discrepancy between the medium as a concept – an ensemble of unrealized possibilities – and as an actual apparatus – the familiar standardized device as we know it. (Levi 2010: 67)
Pavle Levi, “Cinema by Other Means,” October 131 (2010): 51–68.
Pavle Levi, Cinema by Other Means (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
The tag “Darkroom Exposed” encompasses artworks that break away from the normative approach to photochemical processes in the darkroom and emphasize alternative usages of photographic material.
The conventional approach to photography and filmmaking implies strict rules when dealing with exposure, film or paper, and chemistry. However, these very processes can also be freed from their original purpose to bring about a perfect image while remaining invisible and become the main tools of artistic experimentation instead. Artworks gathered under the tag “Darkroom Exposed” demonstrate that light-sensitive surfaces can be employed to reveal the full potential of photo-chemical processes. These works make the process visible and shed light upon otherwise hidden practices.
All forms of photographic and filmic processing treat photographic material chemically after exposure in order to make the image permanent and to render it insensitive to light. But what happens when the image is not “fixed” and the transitoriness of the image becomes an integral part of the artistic process?
In the early history of photography enormous efforts were undertaken to make permanent photographs possible in the sense of being reasonably lightfast when exposed to light. Nonetheless, there is a number of contemporary artists who are interested in the fleeting nature of photographic images, processed without fixer or only partially fixed, and hence, when exposed to light, enter a continuous process of self-destruction. Furthermore, due to its materiality, the photographic material inherently contains aspects of change, self-dissolution, and impermanence.
These “studies in ephemerality”, though limited, are often combined with subject matters such as remembering and forgetting as they drastically demonstrate that photography is far from creating a permanent trace.
The artistic examples gathered in this section demonstrate that media of technical reproduction do not necessarily exclude liveness and performance.
The conventional model of photography and film presupposes a finished product; in other words, production and presentation are temporally separate entities. However, this bipartite scheme is not fixed, but merely a convention, as proven by numerous filmic and even photographic performances, both contemporary and historical.
Live cinema has a long tradition dating back to the Dadaists’ film-performances of the 1920s, and whose ongoing vitality is impressively demonstrated by recent film projection performance. Though still photography plays a decisive role in documenting performances, our interest – by contrast – focuses on photographic processes whose precondition is a public live act, whether on the side of production or on the side of reception, and in which the audience turns into an active collaborator.
Jonathan Walley, “Materiality and Meaning in Recent Projection Performance,” The Velvet Light Trap, n° 70 (2012), pp. 18–34.
Lost and Found
The artistic works gathered in this field enter into a dialogue with the history of photography and film, either as a media-archaeological investigation into media apparatuses or by drawing their material from already existing image stocks.
“Lost and Found” addresses two different aspects: The first deals with alternative media histories where the artist acts as an inventor of technological apparatuses; in the second the artist is an appropriator of existing images. As far as the invention of hardware is concerned, artists explore overlooked or forgotten aspects of our media-technological past. This might result in belated inventions, fake pieces of media archaeology, or re- and deconstructions of seemingly familiar media apparatuses. Through offering alternative approaches to media history, these practices recall that the actual photographic and cinematic apparatuses, as we know them, are a historical contingency. Appropriation, on the other hand, is an aesthetic strategy of reusing pre-existing images. The extensive use, transformation, and re-interpretation of photographic or filmic images made by others as well as carefully selected material from archives are characteristic. Both invention and appropriation involve memory, recollection, loss, and regain.
Dieter Daniels and Barbara U. Schmidt (eds.), Artists as Inventors. Inventors as Artists (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2008).
William C. Wees, Recycled Images. The Art and Politics of Found Footage Films (New York: Anthology Film Archives, 1993).
This section foregrounds the agency of material in photographic and cinematic practices, demonstrating that matter itself has a performative quality and plays an active and at times even dominant role in artistic practices.
The resurgence of materialist practices has fostered a variety of unorthodox production methods. For example, external influences, such as water, heat and weather, or biological processes, or even the human body with its fluids and substances, such as blood, urine, sperm, spit etc., can all serve as resources to which the sensitive surfaces of the film strip or the photo paper can be exposed (Knowles 2013). It is important to note that from this perspective matter is no longer regarded as “‘dumb’, ‘mute’, ‘irrational’ stuff on which humans act” (Bolt 2013: 5), but as a kind of co-producer. Dealing with active (rather than passive) matter raises the question of materiality and its performative power.
Kim Knowles, “Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Bodily Inscriptions in Contemporary Experimental Film,” NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies (2013), http://www.necsus-ejms.org/blood-sweat-and-tears-bodily-inscriptions-in-contemporary-experimental-film/
Barbara Bolt, “Introduction,” in Carnal Knowledge. Towards a “New Materialism” through the Arts, eds. Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013), pp. 1–13.
Rarification, the production of forms of rarity, can be attributed to various factors: It might be due to the setting or the image process; it might also be due to an intentional limitation, be it through the reduction of copies or intentionally restricted screening conditions.
Rarification has an ambivalent status in the fields of photography and film. On the one hand, the limited availability of an artwork or its restricted access treats film and photography as a commercial object, recuperating it into the economy that it once compromised. On the other, in a time when images circulate more pervasively than ever, it provides a moment outside the hegemonic forms of circulation that govern digital visual culture and thus gains critical value.
Mechanical reproducibility – the production of potentially innumerable copies or facsimiles – is one of the defining criteria of photography and film. Mechanical copying accelerated the mobility of the image, just as digital forms of reproduction did at the end of the 20th century. Since the mobile, migrating copy has become the norm, photographers and filmmakers have rediscovered the critical potential of singularity, which represents a renewed investment in forms of rarity and scarcity.
By transforming something singular into something multiple, mechanical and – even more so – digital technologies have facilitated the accessibility of images and contributed to their democratization. At the same time, reproducibility throws authenticity and uniqueness into crisis. Artists in the fields of photography and film have dealt in different ways with this challenge to the singularity of the traditional artwork. One strategy, among others, is to find ways to recapture uniqueness within practices marked by mechanical reproduction (Balsom 2017: 4–7).
Erika Balsom, After Uniqueness. A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017).
Photography and film are both deemed to be classical media of recording and reproduction. Artworks addressed in the category “Relics”, however, often bypass these processes by making the object itself manifest instead of its reproduction or by presenting it simultaneously with its reproduction.
Whereas the photographic image is usually described as a copy or trace of the depicted object, relics can be considered as fragments of reality, able to bring something from the real world into the picture plane. The artworks in question exhibit the object itself, sometimes in combination with its reproduction. Depending on the material support, different methods are possible: The object can be placed between two layers of transparent film strip, on top of the photo paper, or does not even depend on a material support because it is this support. This category demonstrates that even within a medium nearly exclusively devoted to recording and reproduction the objecthood of things can be a relevant issue.
Peter Geimer, “Image as Trace: Speculations about an Undead Paradigm,” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 18, 1 (2007), pp. 8–27.
Philippe Dubois, Der fotografische Akt. Versuch über ein theoretisches Dispositiv (Amsterdam: Verlag der Kunst, 1998).
Repurposing the Hardware
Repurposing the hardware is achieved by modifying the mechanical or optical parts of the apparatuses involved in the making of photography or film – in particular, the camera and the projector – or by replacing them with other tools to fit the use of a camera or a projector.
Simply put, a camera as we know it is a light-proof box with a lens through which light enters and projects an image onto a light-sensitive photochemical material, whereas a projector is an optical instrument for projecting still or moving images upon a surface. The term “hardware” refers to the mechanical and optical parts of the apparatuses, each of which offers the possibility to be altered. Hence, the concept of “Repurposing the Hardware” focuses on artistic practices that employ a modification or even replacement of the standard camera or projector with other tools or materials. This frequently occurs in works that explore cinema’s spatiality, be it live performance or installation. The sheer range of the inventiveness with which artists repurpose the hardware is remarkable, bestowing upon them new and original uses. Inherent to these inventions is the artist’s search for unforeseen results, which are not usually attainable with standard apparatuses. Besides rejecting regulated technical processes, repurposed hardware is also an expression of the artist’s refusal to capitulate to the increasing commodification of his or her tools.
Scale & Format
Scale is the ratio between the size of the basic material (photo negative or film frame) and its appearance as a print or a projection. A print can be converted to a larger size or, less frequently, reduced to a smaller size. As enlargement in scale is the common practice in photography, its potential for artistic exploration is limited, unless the image is magnified to such a degree that its representational quality gets lost. Such “blow-ups” or “macro-images” result in a quasi-tangible graininess; their low resolution highlights texture and surface.
Likewise, projecting moving images on a screen multiplies the original frame and leads to an enlargement in scale. The creative potential of scale lies in the possibility to challenge cinematic standards, whether by stretching the enlargement to its limits or, conversely, miniaturizing the projected image and abandoning enlargement at all.
The primary characteristic of a film format, whether still or moving images, is its shape and the proportional relationship between its width and its height (aspect ratio).
Film formats are industrially produced and hence standardized, and it is exactly this standardization which artists resist against. In photography, for example, the film and the photo paper are only available in predefined sizes. In cinema the classic 4:3 rectangle or “landscape format” has become the worldwide standard. Unlike photography, which can switch easily between the horizontal landscape format and the vertical portrait format, “the film image has always been biased toward the horizontal” (Bordwell 2009). Depending on the respective medium, deviations from the accepted format are minimal: for example, circular photographic prints or, more general, individually designed formats, manipulating the paper by folding it, or stretching the cinematic image in its vertical axis.
David Bordwell, “Paolo Gioli’s Vertical Cinema,” David Bordwell’s website on cinema (2009), accessed October 12, 2017, http://www.davidbordwell.net/essays/gioli.php.
John Belton, “The Origins of 35mm Film as a Standard,” SMPTE Journal (August 1990), pp. 652–661.
Primarily, site specificity is a spatial paradigm meaning that these works are intended for a specific location. Nonetheless, in the context of still photography and film it is possible to consider works as site-specific, too, insofar as their material constituents are closely linked to the environment where they stem from.
Site specificity seems to go against one of the inherent qualities of photography and film – their circulatory reproducibility. Nevertheless, site specificity “has a history, however limited, within the experimental […] tradition, where it has been deployed within practices deeply invested in thinking through medium specificity” (Balsom 2017: 215). Hence, site-specific works are usually made and exhibited in the same space. However, there are some cases – such as photographs with site-specific cameras made out of found materials – where the artwork’s place of production and its place of exhibition are separated. Nevertheless, these works can be called site-specific because they show a profound material interrelationship with their location and could not have been made at another place.
Erika Balsom, After Uniqueness. A History of Film and Video Art in Circulation (New York: Columbia University Press, 2017).
Still ↔ Moving
“Still ↔ Moving” refers to works that merge cinema and photography by focusing on the multiple moments of mutual interference, which go beyond questioning the opposition between photographic still image and cinematic moving image and also include an artwork’s process of production and the materiality of these media.
“Still ↔ Moving” highlights the numerous artistic attempts in photography to assimilate certain aspects of film and, vice versa, how film emulates the photographic. Filmic works that follow the photographic path often accentuate the qualities of the static single frame – for example, Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962), which is almost entirely constructed from stills. On the other hand, photographs are able to mimic movement when ordered into a sequence of images, as Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of human and animal locomotion demonstrate. Interferences between photography and film are not restricted to the opposition of stillness and movement and its possible overcoming; they also address the materiality of these media – think of films printed on paper, for instance, or more generally, the artist’s approach and the production method itself, which do not necessarily have to be in keeping with the chosen medium. In other words, it is not unusual that photographers are fuelled by a cinematic sensibility or filmmakers by a photographic one, which might result in further crossings between photography and film.
Karen Beckman and Jean Ma (eds.), Still Moving. Between Cinema and Photography (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008).
Laurent Guido and Olivier Lugon (eds.), Between Still and Moving Images (New Barnet: John Libbey Publishing, 2012).
Within the constraints of photography and film, transplanar images push the boundaries of the photographic print and the film screening situation beyond the two-dimensionality of the picture surface into a sculptural dimension.
Transplanar images demonstrate an interest in the physicality of the photograph or the film screening by focusing on the spatial quality as the essential factor, the result being a crossover between film/photography and sculpture.
Photographers who experiment with transplanar images withdraw from the traditional print on flat pieces of paper and introduce a third dimension. In the case of cinematic images the projector’s light beam no longer strikes a flat surface (the conventional screen) but a three-dimensional object, or even becomes physical and space-occupying itself. Transplanar images are a means of imbuing dimension – height, width, and depth – into flat mediums of photography and film and challenge the way we traditionally understand them.
Rebecca Morse, “Photography/Sculpture in Contemporary Art,” American Art 24, no. 1 (Spring 2010), pp. 31–34.
The notion of slowness provides a critical framework for discovering aspects of deceleration in contemporary artworks, which allow intense experiences in time and space.
Photographers and filmmakers have evolved different aesthetic strategies to address the challenges of slowness as a critical stance. Film as a time-based medium possesses several possibilities to reflect upon alternate temporalities. Although slow-motion was already available in cinema in the early twentieth century, it has become an important aesthetic device over the last decades. Despite the fact that photography can only represent but not reproduce movement, photographers have experimented on visualizing the flow of time. For example, the calculated use of open shutter techniques resulting in prolonged exposure times, which range from minutes to several years, provides a way to withdraw from the frantic realm of homogenized instantaneity. Far from romanticizing “slower pasts”, in keeping with Lutz Koepnick, aesthetic slowness has to be seen as a decidedly modern practice and as a strategy of the contemporary in order to intensify our present temporal and spatial experiences. (Koepnick 2014)
Lutz Koepnick, On Slowness. Toward an Aesthetic of the Contemporary (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).