The Photographic Event

September 23–24, 2016

A statue of a man on a horse, seen against the sky

Matthew Buckingham, Image of Absalon To Be Projected Until It Vanishes, 2001; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Society for the Encouragement of Contemporary Art Fund purchase; © Matthew Buckingham

When we think of photography as an event, it is most likely the moment of capture, that fraction of a second in which an image is formed, that comes to mind. Yet photographs and photography are shaped by time in a myriad of complex ways: we not only take photographs, we share them; we keep and even discard them. The time of circulation and the time of deterioration are also photographic events. Photographs point both backward and forward in time, depicting things that may no longer exist for a future audience. Their subjects are thus simultaneously present and absent. Roland Barthes famously described this condition as a “temporal hallucination,” deeming the photograph “a mad image, chafed by reality.”

The Photographic Event at SFMOMA is a two-day symposium that will explore photography’s multifaceted relationship to time, history, and memory through a series of panel discussions, presentations, screenings, and performances. Participants include artists from around the world, such as Jananne Al-Ani, John Gerrard, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Owen Kydd, and Trevor Paglen; and scholars including Jimena Canales, Thomas M. Siebel Chair in the History of Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Elizabeth Siegel, associate curator of photography, Art Institute of Chicago; as well as Corey Keller, SFMOMA curator of photography.

Among many topics, discussions will examine the frontier between still and moving images in the work of Gerrard and Kydd and photographic practices as modes of investigation, from archeological (Al-Ani) to technological (Paglen).

The Photographic Event includes the US debut of Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s performance of the book Latent Images: Diary of a Photographer, the third part of their Wonder Beirut project. In addition to its text, this book includes 38 photographic plates selected from among hundreds of reels of exposed, but undeveloped film by the Lebanese photographer Abdallah Farah between 1997 and 2006. The performance of Latent Images was previously presented at last year’s Venice Biennale.

The symposium is timed to coincide with the closing weekend of About Time: Photography in a Moment of Change, the inaugural presentation of SFMOMA’s photography collection in the new, 15,000-square-foot Pritzker Center for Photography — the largest gallery, research, and interpretive space permanently dedicated to photography in any United States art museum. The exhibition considers the way photography’s complex and ever-changing relationship with time has reflected and inflected our ideas about permanence and obsolescence, history and memory. It showcases work by Dawoud Bey, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Julia Margaret Cameron, Phil Chang, Owen Kydd, and Zoe Leonard, among many others, as well as Recordings #3 (At Sea), a newly commissioned installation by Jason Lazarus.

The Photographic Event is the third in a series of major public programs about photography at SFMOMA, following and building on Is Photography Over? (2010) and Bearing Witness (2014). This trilogy of events is generously supported by the Fraenkel Gallery Fund for New Studies in Photography.

The Photographic Event is organized at SFMOMA by Corey Keller, curator of photography; Deena Chalabi, Barbara and Stephan Vermut Associate Curator of Public Dialogue; and Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Practice.

Tickets for The Photographic Event are sold out.

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