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Magazines on the Wall: 10 projects on Migration

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Introduction

Magazines have always been on the forefront of Photography. Their ability to react directly to new trends, reaching wide geographical distances while being able to cover and establish a solid discourse around an artist or body of work, continues its relevance as an ideal dissemination tool, for a medium that is best envisioned on paper. The aim of these magazines has always been to serve a specialized audience of artists, curators, collectors, academics, or simply photography lovers. The photography magazine shows the world through the eyes of the medium, yet in constant, mutual dialogue from a conceptual approach. Naturally, these goals shape the layout of the publication: No flashy headlines or typographic upstaging, but rather a solid and weighted design that serves an often-complex text-image relation.

The editors hardly ever just wear one hat. Rather, they are also artists, curators, writers, book publishers (some are all of that), and use these different abilities in favour of their publications. Five of them, have acted as co-curators for this section of PhotoIreland’s main exhibit, on the Migration theme. By choosing photography magazines from Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany), we have focused on a region that has been shaped by migratory movements, hybrid cultural identities and the effects of history through political systems. The curatorial process has been one with a dialectic and open approach, as we asked each editor to put forward three artists to be considered for the project. From this pool, the following list of 10 artists has been chosen for the exhibition.

The selected repertoire illustrates the great interest from contemporary artists on the issue at stake. With any such selection of artists, they also illustrate ideas on what has been left out, especially in this rather experimental setting.

This exhibition is an acknowledgement of the important role and contribution of the Photography Magazine to contemporary photographic practices. We are deeply thankful to the editors and invited artists for their participation.
Moritz Neumüller

 

 

European Photography (BERLIN, GERMANY)

Published since 1980, two issues per year
Editor in Chief: Andreas Müller-Pohle

Two photographers from Switzerland ventured out into the big, wide world-one to Berlin, the other to Los Angeles. There, they devoted attention to their existential situation, migration, albeit in two very different ways. Benjamin Füglister photographed and interviewed ex-pats in the Philippines, producing a small, delightful passport book, while Verner Soler undertook a photographic family genealogy, a long-term project that he presents in an expansive tableaux.

Benjamin Füglister, b. 1978 in Zurich. Lives & works in Berlin.
EXPAT Series, 2009

Q: What was your reason for leaving Switzerland and moving to Berlin?
A: After having lived in the Netherlands I was motivated professionally to move to Berlin, the only German-speaking megacity and European incubator for the arts.

Q: How would you describe the cultural difference between your former and current home?
A: From living abroad for 10 years, my view is surely blurred. My statement solely concerns Berlin, and capital cities are never quite a good place to experience average compatriots. Still, compared to the Swiss mentality, the German is rather loud and direct. It is more pretentious, whereas the Swiss are more understated. The Swiss are aimed more towards meeting at a consensus; the German is more competitive.

Q: Your work addresses the issue of migration. What’s the concept behind it?
A: As a migrant one always meets other expatriates easier than the local people, since no one is waiting for you. It is very demanding to get deep into an existing local network. This fact made me curious to learn more about these seekers of paradise in the Philippines. I wanted to learn how they deal, with the fact of somehow, always remaining an alien in this very different world they have chosen to live in.

Q: Where would you ideally like to live?
A: I would like to live somewhere where the weather is warmer and people care more about food.

Verner Soler, b. 1968 in Vrin. Lives & works in Los Angeles.
Fleeting Faces Series, 2008

Q: What was your reason for leaving Switzerland and moving to L.A.?
A: Even before graduating from college with a teaching degree, I knew I didn’t want to be a teacher for the rest of my life. I didn’t know, at the time, that I was emigrating. All I knew was that California and L.A. offered opportunities to learn more about myself and explore life in ways not possible in a small village in Switzerland.

Q: How would you describe the cultural difference between your former and current home?
A: The differences between my village of 250 people and L. A. are vast. Perhaps the difference that has affected me most, over the years, is the openness of the American people compared to us. Like the village that’s enclosed by tall mountains on either side, we are a rather closed bunch. I have over the years become more American, in that sense.

Q: Your work addresses the issue of migration. What’s the concept behind it?
A: Modern life promotes migration and one of the consequences is the fragmentation of the family. Fleeting Faces tries to draw attention to this fact by creating a portrait of it (reuniting it) from each individual member’s face.

Q: Where would you ideally like to live?
A: Half the year in Switzerland and the other half in Los Angeles would be a nice compromise.
Andreas Müller-Pohle

 

 

CAMERA AUSTRIA (GRAZ, AUSTRIA)

Published since 1980, four issues per year
Publisher: Reinhard Braun. Editor in Chief: Maren Lübbke-Tidow

Heidrun Holzfeind, b. 1972 in Lienz, Austria. Lives & works in Vienna.
The Romanians (Live like a king). Video, 14 min, 2002

My work portrays ordinary people at a pivotal moment in their life at which they reflect and question their achievements, their aims and hopes, and their place in society. These encounters with the lives of ordinary people, immigrants or minorities and their dreams reflect upon structures and conventions of our society aimed at success, efficiency and individuality. They challenge us to rethink and question our cultures’ values and desires, the definitions of success and failure within the system. Peter Plesa left Romania in 1990, walking all the way from Romania to Austria. For a few months he stayed at a refugee camp in Traiskirchen (Lower Austria) before he found work in Kötschach-Mauthen, a village in Carinthia, in the south of Austria where Holzfeind grew up. Since 1991 he has lived there together with his wife Aurelia in the house of Holzfeind’s grandfather. The Romanians, portrays two, “well integrated” immigrants, with common aims. Their capitalist desires and a-political viewpoints are contrasted with their former life in Romania and the difficulties they faced when they first arrived in Austria. The Romanians mixes interviews recorded at their home in Austria with their own home videos shot at their house in Austria and their holidays in Romania.

Marina Naprushkina, b. 1981 in Minsk/Belarus. Lives & works in Berlin.
Self#governing Project, 2011

Known in Western democracies as “the last European dictatorship,” Belarus became an independent country in 1994 after the collapse of the USSR. Since then, it has been under the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, who has used repression as a political tool against the opposition. Civilians are at the mercy of the whims of the military, the Internet is under surveillance, and there is barely any free press. This is arguably the high price the population has to pay for Lukashenko’s alleged and much-touted “stability” for the entire country. Belarus has been going through a severe economic crisis in the last year, providing the perfect opportunity for Russia’s expansion of its stronghold of influence in order to counter-act the effectiveness of financial aid. The continual demise of the Sovereignty of Belarus has reached the depth of decay to that of a carcass. Marina Naprushkina works in close collaboration with key figures of the cultural and political scene to strengthen the democratic processes in the country. This year saw the first edition of Naprushkina’s newspaper, Self#governing, whose aim is to develop future models for Belarus outside of the bloc-building confines of the EU or Russia. The newspaper’s Russian edition was widely circulated in Belarus thanks to the efforts of many activists. The second edition disseminates the patriarchal, masculinist system of the government in Belarus. It shows how women themselves unwittingly have perpetuated this model, and also expounds on the possibilities for changing the situation. Considering the recent wave of protest and resistance across the globe, Self#governing can be read and used as a case study for daring examinations about other political alternatives worldwide.
Reinhard Braun

 

 

FOTOGRAFIJA (LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA)

Published since 1997, in two double issues per year
Editor in Chief: Jan Babnik

Alexandra Croitoru, b. 1975. Lives & works In Bucharest.
ROM_ series, 2004 – 2006

In this photography-based project, Alexandra Croitoru presents simple, tourist-like snapshots of the artist wearing a mask – knit in the Romanian flag colours – in various European and world locations. The snapshots are an efficient commentary on national clichés and guilt, on immigration, adjustment and prejudice, as well as a meditation on the behaviour of the artist. While conditioned by the art market to become something of an international tourist, many artists, especially from Eastern Europe, still wear their national tag, embedded in their practice. The monumental “balaclava” makes us both afraid of and curious about the person beneath it; there is an exchange of power between the masked artist and the viewer.
Simona Dumitriu

Ana Adamović, b. 1974. Lives & works in Belgrade.
Souvenirs from the Balkans (Suveniri sa Balkana), ongoing project since 2003

In her series, photographer and curator Ana Adamović captures an intimate child’s world to which we all have an inherent strong emotional connection. Memories of an earlier, happier time of play, being with friends and having fun represent a starting point in her investigation of the specific traits of the place and time in which she lived, by means of deconstructing stereotypes of the Balkans. This work in progress is conceived as an intimate travelogue in which the artist offers her personal experience of the Balkans, presented in the scenes of frozen landscapes, architecture and events, through an emphatically narrowed vision. Social context is very important in her work, including a subjective critique of the Balkan myths and theories. The artist desires to visualise her living space, which can be roughly determined as the “interspace”, “crossroads” and the “Other” in relation to Western Europe.
Sanja Kojić Mladenov

 

 

FOTOGRAF (PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC)

Published since 2002, two issues per year
Editor in Chief: Pavel Banka

Kateřina Držková, b. 1978 in Prague. Lives & works in Amsterdam.
Borders, video, 2’30’’, 2007

The video deals with the theme of travelling, shopping and spending holidays in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc. On the basis of commented personal stories of Katka (Czechoslovak Socialist Republic) and Karin (German Socialist Republic), the children from the former Communist Czechoslovakia and Germany, depict the absurdity of that period.  A visual pun on human nature and the old adage, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, Katka, born in CSSR, she used to travel as a child with her family to GSR to shop there, because the goods were more luxurious than in CSSR. In the same way, Karin, born in GSR, remembers travelling as a child with her family to CSSR to shop there, because the goods were more luxurious than in GSR. Karin and Katka are alternately telling a similar story from their childhood, about how they used to travel to the neighbouring countries (CSSR, GSR) to buy more luxurious goods and spend their vacations there. At certain moments when they, for example, describe the crossing of the border and the evasion of customs quotas, their texts converge in terms of both form and contents, reflects the artist about this autobiographical mixing of her own experience with that of her peer from East Germany. On the background of the states, which are falling into the realm of distant memories, Kateřina Držková presents both visual variability and stability of photographic images, their infinite possibilities of textual, emotional and pragmatic perception and mingling. The video “Borders” is about the memory of the past, not about the past itself.

Lucia Nimcová, b. 1977 in Humenne, Slovakia. Lives & works in Amsterdam.
Poppy Nation, 1970-1985

Credits: Juraj Nimec / Lucia Nimcova, Poppy Nation, Kodachrome, 1970-1985

“I am interested in the life of Rusyn minority not only because I am one of them, but more because their lives were very much influenced by political decisions and circumstances during the last century. Their homes are mountains, more than states. They have been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as were many other nations, but after the First World War their identities were fragmented into different states. Nobody respected the nation living in the Carpathian Mountains for centuries. Many Rusyns emigrated to the US, especially in the 1920’s and 1930’s, where they formed large communities. The Poppy Nation is based on archival family photographs by Rusyns who stayed and by those who emigrated to the US. It is at once a parallel and a comparison of different views on their identity and the reality they live in.”

 

 

KWARTALNIK FOTOGRAFIA (WARSAW, POLAND)

Published since 2000, four times a year.
Editor in Chief: Waldemar Sliwczynski

Tamas Dezso, b. 1978.  Lives & works in Budapest.
HERE, ANYWHERE, 2009-

Tamas Dezso’s Here, Anywhere (2009-) has already gained international recognition. The artist explores the places on the map of contemporary Hungary passed round by the fast current of the civilization jump after the fall of communism. Those are the places drifting towards the peripheries of reality. We see old, decrepit buildings of unknown purpose, every now and then individuals lost in an otherwise desolate landscape. When the environment one is living in slips into non-existence, there is no longer any need to change places in order to emigrate. This is the situation that Tamas Dezso’s heroes find themselves in. Imprisoned in their patch of reality, which is atrophying, they too switch to another dimension, as if absorbed into a black hole of historical determinism, or history, as a dumping ground. Over the last one hundred years time and space have become relative and so has the notion of migration. This relativity can be traced in the project’s title Here, Anywhere. Those stark places – abandoned and demolished, are not the places where one feels at home. Those are the places of exile and even those who decide to visit them do not make them less deserted. The solitary wanderers are emigrants who have not managed to leave.

Wojciech Wilczyk, b. 1961 in Cracow. Lives & works in Cracow.
The Innocent Eye does not exist, 2006 –
Courtesy of Atlas Sztuki Gallery Lodz

Wojciech Wilczyk’s There Is No Such Thing As an Innocent Eye (2006-2008) documents Jewish religious buildings, including synagogues and private prayer houses, a few dozen years after the tragic disappearance of the communities associated with them. Wilczyk visited various places all across Poland many of which have fallen into ruin or have been remodelled to serve completely different purposes (libraries, cinemas, and even craftsmen’s workshops). In more than 300 photographs, migration is depicted from a very different perspective; it gains a new eschatological dimension – existential, trivial and even sacrilegious purposes – for example, a sacral synagogue space being appropriated by Polish secular post-war reality.
It might be hard to find another theme, which would bring together so many aspects of what we call migration. The buildings in Wilczyk’s photographs were created as a result of the Chosen People’s migration to our part of Europe. The moment this migration changed into settling in, the Holocaust came as the most sinister and apocalyptic form of expatriation. Finally, several a dozen years later, another act of migration occurred, where the buildings changed their precisely defined function into a peculiar, zombie-like (or maybe Ahasverus-like) existence. No real resurrection has turned out possible.
Katarzyna Majak