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A collaboration with Kehrer Verlag and Big City Press
Flak Photo is proud to feature this Gallery in support of HIJACKED, Vol. 2, a book of contemporary German and Australian photography published by Big City Press and Kehrer Verlag in 2010. For more information about this publication and to order a copy for your personal collection, visit BigCityPress.com.au.
Hijacked 2 is a rich and engaging photographic compendium exploring the socio-cultural landscapes of Germany and Australia through the diverse talents and perspectives of 32 contemporary photographers. With a focus on the young, the boundary-riding and the fringe-dwelling, Hijacked is layered with imagery that is variously evocative, confronting, dreamlike, incisive.
The Hijacked projects are the initiative of Mark McPherson, a young artist and entrepreneur from Perth, West Australia. His innovative curatorial approach is refreshingly different from the more orthodox methodologies employed by many contemporary art surveys. Working outside the traditional art-world structures, he builds on the contemporary modality of social networking to develop projects collaboratively and cross-culturally between experimental artists, photographers, curators, writers and videographers to explore new opportunities for exchange. Each Hijacked project results in both a substantive book and a major exhibition that reinforce and expand upon each other: the exhibition through its experiential immersion and the book through its reflective analysis. Both eschew a simple linear critical argument in favour of a multiplicity dialogues between works and commentators. The results can be surprising, even challenging, in their juxtapositions. The oeuvre of established artists is revealed in a new light, while unfamiliar work by emerging artists and those from overseas is introduced in a stimulating and engaging way. What happens between images is as important as any given image content.
Building on the unprecedented success of Hijacked 1 (2008), Mark McPherson invited the German editors and curators Ute Noll and Markus Schaden to collaborate with him on the creation of a new project: Hijacked 2 – Germany and Australia. The artistic direction is thus a synergistic hybrid of ideas devised by and between the three curators. It offers a rare opportunity to consider the contemporary photographic culture of two nations that are, quite literally, a world apart.
While Germany and Australia share an historical thread of post-Enlightenment ideas (Australia via its colonial past) it is woven differently into the cultural fabric of each country. Most obviously, the geographic context of each nation and its own evolving multiculturalism play significant roles.
A more specific and clearly identifiable difference can be seen in the approach to artistic education in each country. In Australia the tertiary and post-graduate education of artists tends towards the ‘leading out’ of their nascent conceptual and stylistic expression through a rigorous but open academic training. Meanwhile, as Katja Melzer has described, German art education is structured around schools that develop and refine a distinct shared approach to the principles, methods and styles of art making under the influence of internationally respected senior artist–scholars.
That said, the formation of individual creativity is never a simple matter and while the educational systems of Germany and Australia may take different approaches, there are also marked points of correspondence between the artists in the book regardless of origin. In particular, the work here reflects a significant and shared generational shift of sensibility born of increasingly sophisticated and ubiquitous communications technologies. ‘Horizontal’ global networking among generational peers is effecting a new balance with the ‘vertical’ hierarchies of local intellectual influence. The Zeitgeist is no longer firmly anchored in geography or even nationhood.
Here, within the context of this new generational sensibility, subjects and photographers are at ease with themselves and comfortable with the camera. The strange is never alien; rather, strangeness is about individuality. The weird and the idiosyncratic come to beguile in such a way that difference forms a point of curious connection rather than a wall of alienating incomprehension.
It is an approach that perfectly suits the inter-cultural ‘visual conversation’ at the heart of this project. A conversation that will (on the experience of Hijacked 1 – America and Australia) vividly engage a new generation of adults on their own terms, while offering profound new insights for those of an older generation who may already be familiar with the photographic scenes in Germany and Australia but will, through this project, come to experience them in a new light.
Amid the torrent of 21st century complexity many established frameworks of thinking and modes of being are fragmenting in a way that threatens chaos. Yet it is through the process of collective cultural conversation that new frameworks and modes emerge. For 19th-century physicists chaos was a mark of dissipation, of a loss of structure and of energy that led to a cold still death. In the 21st century scientists understand chaos and complexity as creative systems from which new rich, distinct and individuated forms emerge. This emergence is not an act of will or design, but arises from the very process of collective complex interaction. Werner Hertzog’s quotation that opens this introduction may suggest a dangerous threat to civilisation from the chaos on which it rides, but, as Henry Miller observed: “chaos is the score upon which reality is written”. Civilization is only understandable in retrospect; to pin it down at its living edge is to slip into the stagnation of habit. Today’s chaos, once we understand it, becomes tomorrow’s order.
While their practice has been shaped in part by national context, by educational training, by generational sensibility and by myriad other eddies of influence, the artists presented here remain coherently creative individuals. And it is their personal dialogue with each viewer, set within the larger evolving collective conversation, that is their most significant legacy. — Alasdair Foster
Alasdair Foster is a consultant specialising in international cultural projects and a researcher in the theory of arts policy formation. He is currently a doctoral researcher in the Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching, Monash University, Melbourne and an associate member of the Centre for Visual Anthropology in the Australian National University, Canberra. Alasdair was the founding director of Fotofeis, the award-winning international biennale of photo-based art in Scotland (1991–1997) and, more recently, director of the Australian Centre for Photography (1998–2011). He began his career in the documentary film industry working for Films of Scotland, a company initiated by the legendary John Grierson, before establishing a successful photographic business (1980-1990). He has held many previous positions including President of the Contemporary Art Organisations of Australia, editor of Photofile magazine and Chair of the Conference for European Photographers.
Posted on Monday, November 14, 2011.
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