Riga Photography Biennial - NEXT 2023. International conference 'Awkward Topics: Troubleshooting'

2023 06 03
Author Echo Gone Wrong
Published in Events in Latvia

Emotions cannot be photographed. Mental states, and even the most straightforward and expressive of emotions, elude the camera. In a photograph, we see a face contorted by a grimace and we think ‘anguish.’ A goofy smile indicates ‘delight.’ However, this does not suffice. Individual images merely refer to memories and recalled emotional states, while standing in the way of an accurate transmission of them. Sentenced to singularity and exclusivity, images of feelings fail to build relationships. They reproduce something, they imply something, but that something fails to penetrate below the surface of the picture. However, many artists seek to capture through photography more than merely things as they appear, as if in the belief that modern photography can reach for something else: a new, unknown layer. This is no mystical state of limbo. It is more about expression and sharing one’s own experiences, relationships, and emotions. Gestures and masks, productions and performances. In modern photography, this is already a current. Or, perhaps even better, a dilemma.

While thinking about the artists whom I invited to partake in this symposium, I read Antoni Kępiński. In fact, the symposium’s working title was one of the fundamental concepts in his book Anxiety: ‘the crystallisation of feelings’. This concept was associated with the process of developing photographs and the materialisation of emotional states. Later, there was an even better-sounding English term coined by Kępiński: ‘free-floating anxiety’. When it comes to anxiety, fear, and related depressive states, contemporary photography undoubtedly excels. But it does not end there.

A conference includes a variety of young but already well-established photographers from the Central Europe and the Baltic countries. A generation of photographers born in late 1980s and 1990s is not so much concerned with a state of humanity (which is in shambles), but is desperately striving to cope with their own life. And no, it is not about careers and fame. For millennials, issues are far more personal than political. Burnout, depression, addictions, anxiety, guilt, toxic relations and all sorts of emotional breakdowns. It was like this even before the Covid and the war. Now, it is even more obvious. You can see it in their work, you can feel it, but what do they have to say? How do they deal with precarious condition? Is photography a therapy or an addiction? Sex and drugs used to be fun for party-hards but are no more. There are no easy to find solutions and one of few things left is photography. Let’s talk about it.

June 3 11:00-18:00
ISSP Gallery, Berga bazārs, Marijas Str. 13 k. 3, Riga.
Participants: Sergey Melnitchenko (UA), Sasha Kurmaz (UA), Visvaldas Morkevicius (LT), Zuzana Pustaiova (SK), Agnieszka Sejud (PL), Inuuteq Storch (DK), Karolina Wojtas (PL), Diana Tamane (LV)
Curators: Adam, Mazur (PL)
Text: Katarzyna Sagatowska (PL)
In cooperation with: gallery Jednostka (PL)