Peter Cornwell and Duncan Forbes

Exhibiting the Medium Formally Known as Photography

11 December 2015, 18:00
Post Graduate Programme in Curating, ZHdK

The last decade has witnessed dramatic changes in the exhibition of photography in response to the rise of so-called post-photography and the distributed or transitive nature of photographic media. The idea of photography as one medium is increasingly impossible to sustain, as images flood across different platforms, combining still and moving forms, and offering new modes of reception and creative interaction. Nowadays the photograph is as much data as it is aesthetic or narrative, forging a new paradigm of algorithmic vision. What does it mean for photography and its audiences when the ‘traffic in photographs’ is transformed by global networks and the management of big data?
Taking Fotomuseum Winterthur as a case study, this lecture explores what these changes mean for curatorial practice and the institution of the photography museum. What would a post-photographic exhibition programme look like and what are the challenges of installation and interpretation? How should a photography museum position itself today, in relation to both physical and virtual audiences? What does it mean for the infrastructure of the museum as online platforms and retina displays proliferate and preservation-quality digitization becomes the norm? Is the institutional production of algorithmic vision sustainable and what are the creative possibilities? And what does a culture of ubiquitous, and sometimes disorienting, change mean for the staging of the history of photography?

Peter Cornwell is Director of the Data Futures project at Westminster University. He has previously been Director of European Research for Texas Instruments Inc., Professor of Public Art at Central Saint Martins and Director of the Institute of Visual Media, ZKM. Data Futures is a consortium, including Heidelberg, Lyon and Princeton Universities and Merve Verlag Berlin, which focuses on sustainability of digital research projects in the humanities.

Duncan Forbes is Director and Curator of Fotomuseum Winterthur. He was previously Senior Curator of Photography at the National Galleries of Scotland. Recent collaborative curatorial and publishing projects include Provoke: Between Protest and Peformance – Japanese Photography 1960/1975 (Steidl, forthcoming), Beastly/Tierisch (Spector Books, 2015), Manifeste! Eine andere Geschichte der Fotografie (Steidl, 2014) and Edith Tudor-Hart: In the Shadow of Tyranny (Hatje Cantz, 2013). He has published on photography in numerous journals including History of Photography, Fotogeschichte, History Workshop Journal and Third Text. He is currently researching an exhibition for 2017 titled The Hobbyist.