Having journeyed back from London on Monday I decided to head back again on Thursday to the ‘Systems, networks, photography and the legacy of conceptual art’ symposium at LCC. I was keen to hear John Hilliard speak along with Daniel Rubinstein from CSM. Actually, all the speakers gave interesting presentations. It was also really nice to meet and talk to some new people including Rakesh and Iona and to catch up with my good friend Andreia.
I think I will write up the extensive notes I took from the day and post here later. However, I can’t not mention the Q&A of the final session. Provoked by Daniel’s ‘Fractalising Photography’ talk and Francis Halsall‘s ‘Systems Aesthetics: Mediums and Modernity’ there was a series of heated questions between the audience and the panel members. It seemed to me that many people were unable or unwilling to grasp the implications of Daniel’s reconceptualisation of photography as being fractal. Possibly because I’ve read many of Daniel’s papers I didn’t find it so hard to understand his argument. On one level, it is not so different from the dispositif arguments of the 70s and 80s. Daniel’s apparatus is now the network, but the sentiment of not fetishising the visual surface/image over and above the means by which it is delivered is how I understood his paper’s position. As he stated, “how do we combine the visual surface with its distribution?” There’s clearly a next step in this proposition – one I’d like to examine more myself – but in principle his proposition of ‘where is the image?’ and his emphasis of the self repeating nature of photography are areas which I believe should be of interest to everyone engaged in the contemporary discussions around photography.
Francis’ ‘cultural entrepreneurs’ argument was also controversial. Again, I didn’t feel he was saying anything new, so I was surprised that so many people thought he was making bold and unsubstantiated claims. Especially in terms of the meritocracy of the art world – it’s not a meritocracy, he stated – and the idea of the artist who produces work in some state of transcendental awareness of the world (my terms not his). I was actually amazed to hear so many claims for the subjective, romantic idealised version of the artist. Francis stated sound arguments against the possibility of this notion but I couldn’t help feeling a fair number of people disagreed with him. In itself, this double contradiction supports a more complex system in which the artist operates as a cultural entrepreneur but continues to believe they are acting as independent, creative, subjective, artist.
Overall, this was a really good symposium with a diverse set of speakers who approached the theme intelligently and provocatively.