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A series of exhibitions with artists and collectives who use photography to contest dominant visual narratives of conflicts

Values


The Image-Event: A Joint Struggle

An exhibition revisiting the photographic archive of the Activestills Collective

Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Politics / Economics
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought

Organizers

Vered Maimon and Shiraz Grinbaum

Funders

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Opens to public

02/21/2019

Address

Slought
4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce The Image-Event: A Joint Struggle, an exhibition from February 21, 2019 to March 31, 2019 that features the archive of the photographic collective Activestills. Working in Palestine/Israel since 2005, the collective is comprised of Palestinian, Israeli, and international activist-photographers. Approaching the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as one, the collective works to advocate against the most blatant attack on human rights and freedom within these borders, namely the Zionist settler-colonialist project led by Israel against the Palestinian population. One of the collective's main subjects of documentation is the various forms of resistance against this project, on both sides of the Green Line. In addition, Activestills covers various topics including women's rights, LGTBQI rights, migrant-workers' rights, refugees' struggle for recognition, animal rights and other struggles for freedom and equality.

Activestills' archive is conceived as a shared archive, as emphasized in the collective's official statement: "Our collective is based upon the belief that mutual work serves each photographer's personal expression, and that joint projects create powerful shared statements. We believe that the photos we take belong to those whose struggles are documented, and so we share our archive with different activist groups." The photographers of Activestills see themselves as activists, journalists and witnesses, promoting human rights and fighting against racism and inequality. The reality captured in their photographs is from the vantage point of the subjugated person. Yet, the person who suffers discrimination and dispossession is not presented as a passive victim, but as an active subject fighting individually and collectively for rights that are denied to his.her community.

The exhibition emphasizes how the images produced by Activestills emerged from close collaborations with specific communities and organizations, working against political consensus. On the one hand, it focuses on long-term documentary projects in which photographers expose different centralized colonist segregation and separation strategies such as land dispossession, house demolitions, relocations, forced removals, movement restrictions, and economic exploitation. On the other hand, it profiles the consistent commitment to documentation by the collective of major and minor acts of resistance often beyond the headlines of demonstrations, direct actions and funeral processions. It also points to the way the collective's images were used for publication and advocacy; displayed in exhibitions within the sites of struggle; in public spaces; and circulated in different platforms as a way to propagate the struggle beyond the confines of oppressed communities.

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The Image-Event: A Joint Struggle focuses on different forms of visual activism in which photographic witnessing is turned into political action. Within the collective's frame-work, the emphasis is not simply on the joint production of images as means of representation, but on their status as tokens of exchange and dissemination within specific visual economies.

Activestills's practices of intervention position viewers, photographed subjects, and photographers along an axis that locates them all as ethically response-able partners, who co-create image-events that are intrinsically participatory in the struggle for political change. With this exhibition, we hope to inspire contemporary forms of resistance against inequality and violence by pointing out that the public sphere of appearance and the struggle for freedom are inseparable.

The term "Struggle Photography", often associated with the work of Activestills and other political collectives, denotes a photographic practice that is meant to challenge notions of "objectivity" and "neutrality" in photojournalism and documentary photography, as well as the communicative rational ideal of public space as grounded on equality and transparency. It lays bare the aim of the photographers' actions, not just to "impartially" document the conflicts between oppressors and their victims, but to alert, persuade, and elicit support for specific oppressed communities.

"We believe in the power of images to shape public attitudes and raise awareness on issues that are generally absent from public discourse. We view ourselves as part of the struggle against all forms of oppression, racism, and violations of the basic right to freedom."

-- Activestills collective, 2005