Le Mois de la Photo: Investigating the Post-Photographic Condition

Devices and smart phones now exist as part of our personal and physical space. At any given time of the day, most people know where their phone is. Either by seeing or feeling the phone on their physical person, or by mentally knowing where it is. This continuous physical and psychological contact is changing the way we make decisions, share stories, and form memories. Specifically, these devices have changed our relationship with photography and with images. Each person now has inexpensive, easy access to a camera, storage, and everyone is constantly connected to one another. Reality exists increasingly within and through these devices, and via social media and the cloud almost everything ends up on the Internet. The many and varied ways these technologies are changing individuals, and society as a whole, is under examination at this year’s Le Mois de la Photo (MPM).

Opening last week, the biennial – currently in its 14th edition – features 29 artists (emerging and established) from 11 countries who will exhibit at 16 sites across Montreal over the month long event. Four artists will present their work in Belgo Building galleries. Conceptual artist and curator, Joan Fontcuberta, conceived of this year’s theme, The Post-Photographic Condition. Each of the exhibits and the related discussions fit within one of the biennial’s three core conceptual frameworks, also conceived by Fontcuberta.

The first framework sees an exploration of the idea that we’re witnessing the establishment of a new visual order, which is changing the way images are understood and used. Images have now become immaterial, viewed solely as digital objects, and more easily shared than ever; the landscape is characterized by a massive increase in the number and the availability of all kinds of images. Their ubiquitous nature now means that photographs are not valued in the way they once were. Their ease of use, and ease of transmission, has also made communicating via images a day-to-day experience for most people.

Fontcuberta calls the second conceptual idea Reality Reloaded, with obvious reference to The Matrix. In the same way Neo plugged into the matrix, we are now able to engage with a parallel reality in the online world. Although the Internet can be said to act as a mirror of the real world, this mirror and our perception of the reflection is not always accurate. The line between reality and illusion, lies and truth, can be impossible to ascertain. Fontcuberta poses the questions: is what we see on our screens just an interface between subject and object, or is the online image its own reality – a documentation of the world in image form, and ultimately a new form of reality?

In the third framework, Reviewing the Subject, there is a dialogue discussing the way digital culture is changing our construction of society, and the fashioning of our individual identities. The “selfie” has created a new genre of imagery. It has had a huge effect on how people present their own image to the world – it’s the first time in history people have had complete and utter control over how their own personas are perceived by others. Even though, people’s reactions to these images are not always predictable.

The biennial also features a number of events, including: the presentation of the Dazibao Prize, artists’ talks, a portfolio review session, workshops, and guided tours. MPM will conclude with a three-day conference, “À partir d’aujourd’hui … Reconsidering Photography,” in which nine invited scholars will give papers and form panels to discuss the theme and its associated issues. The biennial runs until October 11, 2015.

The Belgo Building will host four artists as part of the biennial:

Centre des Arts Actuels Skols
Christina Battle, “The people in this picture are standing on all that remained of a handsome residence.”

Galerie B-312
Liam Maloney, “Texting Syria”

Galerie Joyce Yahouda
Paul Wong, “Multiverse”

SBC Galerie d’Art Contemporain
Isabelle Le Minh, “Tous Décavés”

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