ONLINE DOSSIER: PHOTOGRAPHY IS MAGIC (BY CHARLOTTE COTTON)
»Photography Is Magic surveys more than eighty artists whose practices shape the possibilities of our contemporary photographic landscape.«
»The idea that close-up magic has bearing on the critical mass of contemporary photographic art centers on their shared capacity to recalibrate established creative forms on ways that relate to our collective present: to conjure imaginative and open-ended experiences and trains of thought in the viewer. Magic in both realms is a multisensory experience that calls – instantaneously and without our consciously knowing it – upon our capacity to script our own sense of visual reality.« (p.1)
»In effect, the magic begins when its mechanics and linguistic tools are integrated into the evolving present of the imaginary correlations of a trick's sequence.« (p. 2)
»It is important to remember that magic is not merely the sum of its technics and orchestration. What the magician does is use his or her skill and tools to create an arena within the viewer’s imagination for the magic to happen. The effect of magic is in part after the trick, held in the stories we tell ourselves once experience is over. The audience turns magic into language and hence into meaning and narrative, all the while knowing that it is impossible for language to fully articulate the experience of magic and its playfulness – those things are defined only temporarily in the presence of the magician. A magic trick, like all performative art forms played well, creates the conditions for us to explore imaginative possibilities, while sharing in a slice of the real. It is we who fill the empty cup, envelope, or playing-card packet with the kaleidoscope of our temporarily collectivized consciousness in the presence of magic.
The connection of close-up magic to contemporary photography is in the idea that magic is something that happens in the viewers’s imaginations. […] Photographic magic opens us to multiple possible meanings of our visual world, and calls upon our collective ways of looking at it […].« (p. 2–3)
»The artists featured here – like the magicians who masterfully tap into the psychological and neuronal systems of the spectator – are astutely aware of their viewer's perceptions and trains of thought in ways that are grounded in our shared visual culture. They not only acknowledge, but stage viewership at this contemporary moment, in which there is unprecedented compatibility and transparency between viewers and artists, a time unlike any before in history in terms of our ability to comprehend access and use photographic tools for capturing, rendering, and disseminating visual ideas.« (p. 3)
»Only time will tell to what extent the works created by the artists represented here will be assimilated into a discrete history of the medium of photography (somehow separated form the rest of art history) […]. Or, indeed, how photography viewed as a subject in academia or a discipline in art schools will be maintained or reshaped in light of contemporary practices. The photographic works shown here are not in a state of limbo; they are not awaiting the appraisal of the institutional structures of art and a future designation of cultural importance. Part of their significance is in the purposeful precariousness of their making and meaning, and in the rapidly evolving context of viewership in which the artists create and operate.« (p. 5)
»Photographic magic is an arena in which the meaning of an individual work of art is variably both contingent upon and equal to what is made before and after it by its creator. This infinitely additive way of working has created a new conceptual framework for artists working with photographic ideas.« (p. 5)
»The modes of subjectivity vary […]. What […] these practices have in common is an immeasurable quantity of active choices being made – in a subjective and nonlinear fashion – by their creators. […] We can now recognize individual artists’ signatures through their repeated navigation and articulation of the dynamic behavior of photographic culture at large.« (p. 10)
»The character of black-and-white photography has always been one of abstracting and distilling frames from real time […]. The experience of contemporary black-and-white photography is beautifully slippery, coded as it is with both the past and the present of photographic ideas. […] The presence of black-and-white photography […] directs the viewer toward thinking about the persona and motivations of the maker as a recognizable entity […]. The use of such classic analog techniques implies that this creator is a “photographer”: an embodiment of craftsmanship and devotion to a defined set of materials and techniques.« (p. 11)
The essay by Charlotte Cotton at the beginning of the book positions contemporary photography. Explaining how it is different from photography in the past, its challenges and new interpretation of “photography”. Through mass media, cameras being in everyones pocket, artists had to redefine what they are doing.
I mainly read it for it’s interpretation and meaning of contemporary photography. And the use of words. In this project, as I work mainly intuitively, I have a hard time finding words for what I am doing. I understand now that process and context of the work today play a bigger role than in the past. Therefore worth talking about these things.