MedPhoto Festival in its 3rd edition organizes a variety of events under the key theme “Archive: Between the Public and the Private”.
Social relations and their transformations over time, their classification and spatialisation, the mechanisms that establish connections and produce events as much as record them, the construction of living experience and its links with memory and the memorial, the ways through which individuals or institutions proceed to archiving, are focal points of the Festival.
Archival practices are a constitutive dimension of every power structure and thus presuppose the existence of a subject that chooses, impresses, maintains, controls, reproduces. They presuppose the existence of an authority that is constantly in a tug-of-war relationship with the Arkhe, either conceived as an origin or as a vantage point.
Photography, as a tool of archiving by default, as a medium for constructing memory and exorcising oblivion, as a model, as a code, as a footprint, as a document of absence, as a means of re-contextualization, has always been at the center of such social processes. There is no human activity, from the most common everyday act to large-scale political events that do not “seek” to be photographed, stored, classified, reproduced, circulated as a copy, as a simulation, as evidence, as truth, or as constructed “reality”.
Does a visual document preserve or undermine collective memory? Which is its relationship with loss? Which are its limits and where does it dwell? When does an archive begin to have a monumental or public character? How does it get validated? How could visual documents help us understand the gender and class relations of an era, the architecture of a city, the history of a remote village, an incident that shocked the world’s public opinion or eventually the position of the author(s)of an archive?
Who after all has the authority to suggest an archival “image” of history in-the-making? Where do authorship and political agency draw their power from? Instant pictures of life events, police files, family albums, Google Maps images, posters, fashion and advertising images, reportage, instagram snapshots, pictures derived from photomontage techniques, aerial photographs, videos that record social conflicts, visual diaries of personal moments, fragments of the web interface, images of high technical excellence or not, all of them are archives – carriers of meaning – always in progress, incomplete, open to different interpretations and uses; all of them are continuously accumulated and scattered points of a visual grammar that is built day by day, subsequently offering multiple ways of seeing and (of) storing the world or the different worlds out there; all of them are democratic fragments of a contemporary historiography and all of them raise questions about the boundaries between the private and the public sphere, between the occult and the mundane, the temporary and the permanent; between the privileged and the outcast.
MedPhoto Festival 2019, presenting works that explore many of the above-mentioned aspects of the notion of the archive, suggests ways of studying the various filing mechanisms and their agents, ways of linking images to the origins of the things photographed and of those who photograph, ways of interpreting the notion of the “familiar” and how it is conceived and composed and by whom. MedPhoto seeks to contribute to a deeper understanding (perhaps a challenge of) the established methods of using the reconstructed past in the service of a promise for the future.