“Thinking about Europe is thinking about an open question” said Eric Hobsbawm in 2007, in a lecture given at the Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona. And nothing is more real than this.
People in Europe constantly reconstruct their individual and collective face through time, in a territory that always balances on the dialectics between progress and barbarism. Europe is a land of diversity, and at the same time a land of exclusion. That is, it is founded upon multiple civilizations, cultural diffusion, upon diverse religions, languages, races and peoples’ movement; and it is established upon borders and demarcation lines, upon establishing nation-states, conflicts and competition, upon class division and invasions to territories out of the continent. Being responsible for forced displacement and at the same time being the receiver of the displaced, Europe has been transformed into a battlefield, with a battle taking place between a vague “old-continent” identity and a new human geography that is currently emerging. MedPhoto Festival 2017-2018|Europe: The Faces and the Territory looks into the new identities/diversities that are being born within this rapidly transforming European territory and into the potential of a common European identity, if such an identity exists as a potential or, as Hobsbawm states in the above-mentioned lecture, has already failed to exist.
Ever since Zeus, in the form of a white bull, abducted Europa and brought her from Phoenicia to Crete, everything on this continent which was named after that beautiful woman has been connected with abduction, conflict, invasion, constant transformation, power relations. Europe, constantly wobbling between rationality and mythos, has been a subject of an open discussion and artistic exploration through the last years, especially in the field of visual arts. The identities constructed within this continent, deeply influenced by the rapid changes in beliefs and practices on the level of gender, interpersonal, social and political relations, appear more and more as a main subject of contemporary photography. And, on the one hand, this is related to a growing trend of introspective use of the medium (intimacy), on the other hand, it is related to an attempt of a critical understanding of the territory, with all the hues and meanings this entity carries: a site of memory, a land of state dominance, an exile, a place to live, a battlefield, a location of production of the image itself, a no-land (no-topos, utopia).
MedPhoto Festival hosts a mosaic of photographic projects from or about Europe, which seem to look into these changes, depicting the old and the new face of people in Europe and capturing European societies in this procedure of transformation, in an attempt to get actively involved in the history of the land and in a dialogue with its people. These projects are critical to the aesthetisization of dominant discourse, a trend often met in contemporary photography. KOLEKTIV8, the initiative about photography and visual arts in Greece that organizes and hosts MedPhoto Festival, is a collective project derived from a broad meeting of photographers, graphic designers, curators, scholars, writers and researchers coming from diverse disciplines. Our objective is to encourage the constitution of a cultural/artistic community, a community of artists, and the cultivation of a radical social dialogue that involves all the above issues.
Crete is the starting point of MedPhoto Festival, since it constitutes a cultural crossroad among three continents and a decisive geopolitical site of the Mediterranean with a crucial part in contemporary history of Europe. The mating between Zeus and Europa at the Diktaion Andro (or, according to others, at Gortyna) of Crete signifies cultural fusion and diffusion, people’s movement, the courage and audacity of people to touch the sky and to change the earth. All this was depicted early in History and through these depictions mythology was written. “History breaks down into images, not into stories” wrote Walter Benjamin in the Arcades Project. Thus, contemporary photography is here to assert its part in the writing of History.