How do contemporary photographers produce and operate within the meme-driven world, where photos can be effortlessly shared, but where they most often disappear into digital oblivion?
This is the question explored in Making Memeries, the travelling installation created in collaboration between Bruno Ceschel, founder of Self Publish, Be Happy, and artist Lucas Blalock, which blurs the boundaries surrounding the on/offline existence and distribution of photography in the perpetual present.
At last week’s Unseen Photo Fair, the installation was brought to life by a three-day programme that invited visitors to play and explore with the boundaries of contemporary photography – live – with artists, graphic designers and performers working at the forefront of the medium.
Blalock’s work has long been interested in how the worldly and the virtual cohabit behind a photograph’s surface, with Making Memeries visualising this cohabitation, building an exceptional experience that challenges traditional expectations of viewership.
“Making Memeries is set in a time when everyone has become a lifestyle photographer” explains Lucas Blalock. “It is still your life, but the image production is decidedly public; and in that case temporary, verging on fleeting, because these public channels have so, so many content providers and, along with our attention spans, are in a perpetual state of refresh.”
The project explores the world of augmented reality, which broadly refers to a live view of a physical ‘real world’ environment whose elements are augmented by sensory inputs such as sound, video and graphics.
Consisting of an eight panel movable structure, the elements of the installation can be activated via an app of the same name, which through using the phone’s camera opens the realm of augmented reality that can be experienced by the viewer.
The audience are able to immerse themselves in, and interact with, Blalock’s photos via this app, which uses the phone’s camera to produce a digitally augmented reality.
In addition to this, the installation also played an important physical role at Unseen, acting as a staging area for workshops and performances which engaged with the space.
“We wanted to really make use of the outdoor, festival atmosphere of Unseen for the programme” says curator Sophie Wright. “There is so much work on show at the fair, so the live aspect of the space was important. It became a meeting point where people could experience, or get involved with, something new as it was being made, and artists could experiment with their work in real time.”
The program opened with a performance by Foam Talent 2016, Ilona Szwarc, in a live interpretation of her project I am a woman and I cast no shadow, where Szwarc used a moulding process to cast the faces of two of her doppelgängers, engaging in a corporeal kind of image-making.
Alongside this, artist Lana Mesić’s live re-interpretation of her latest photographs of card towers visualised the creative process, with the trials and tribulations of building a card tower mirrored live by a performative human tower; while Japanese photographer Fumi Ishino opened his Barter Pop-up Shop for business, to explore the value of judgement by engaging with visitors in a live trade-off between his image and their text.
Together with these performances, workshops and talks by Blank Paper, The Clinic and graphic design collective The Rodina interacted with audiences, to spark new conversations revolving around the physicality of the photograph; with Ordinary Magazine inviting visitors to get involved in the on the spot creation of a mini issue, with the content’s focus entirely on one specific object – the file folder – to push the boundaries of the mundane objects that surround us and how we perceive them.
“The theme that emerged was making photography physical” says Wright. “Whether it was bringing to life an existing piece of work like Lana Mesic’s human tower performance, Ilona Szwarc’s corporal form of making portraits using face moulds or Ordinary Magazine making an issue on the spot, to having one-on-one conversations over an image at The Clinic, we moved quite far away from the digital world for the weekend.”
The multi-layered, interactive experience of the programme encompasses the ethos’ of both Self Publish, Be Happy and Unseen Photo Fair, through the engagement and accessibility of the Making Memeries.
“There is a real sense of democratic engagement with the installation” says SPBH’s Bruno Ceschel. “We wanted something fun and quirky to explore the new possibilities of photography existing both in the digital and real worlds, and to make something that can be enjoyed not only by people attuned to the photography world but also for those who were not, for kids and for passers by – to start new interesting conversations around photography.”
Making Memeries will be on show in Berlin, as part of European Month of Photography from 1 – 30 October. For more information on the installation at Unseen Photo Fair, go here.