Academy of Dramatic Art (ADU)
Photography Chair, Department of Cinematography
University of Zagreb
With the collaboration of
Photography Association Organ Vida
Transeurope program starts with training sessions. During three months will be 14 preparatory portfolio workshops with the collaboration of renown international centers and experts.
Next 17 of March the Academic of Dramatic Art (ADU), in collaboration with Organ Vida Festival, will host the workshop ” Project development: from the idea to the final product” hold by Moritz Neumüller
We had the opportunity to speak with him about his work, interests and photography.
You are an educator, writer and curator from Austria who lives in Spain. How do you see the European scene today? How important is Europe in cultural matters?
Yes, I was born and raised in Linz, in a time when the city had to redefine itself, from an industrial town to a cultural hub. One of the most important and still lasting projects from that era is the Ars Electronica Festival. I visited it as a teenager and became fascinated. I remember the year that John Lasseter won the festival Prize for animation, with a short film on a desk lamp that later became the symbol of Pixar. It was revolutionary at that time. Then, I studied Art History in Vienna and afterwards, I have worked for different institutions around the world, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2003, I came back to Europe, where I worked for PHotoEspaña, the Spanish Festival of Photography and Visual Arts, in the editions of 2004-2007, before moving to Barcelona in 2008, to direct a festival for Video Art. Since then, I have been involved in a number of other projects, most of them in Europe, such as PhotoIreland in Dublin. But also more exotic places such as the Daegu Biennial, in Korea.
I am quite used to wearing different hats, and working on several projects at once. For example, at the moment, I am working as the Curator of the Aarhus Photobook Week in Denmark, and direct a study program called European Master of Fine Art Photography in Madrid. I also teach at the IDEP school in Barcelona, mostly doing project tutoring for photographers who want to develop their own language in photography. Since 2010, I run The Curator Ship, a platform for photography and image culture, and an accessibility program for the arts, called ArteConTacto. Furthermore, I am the Communication Manager for a EU-funded project called ARCHES and partner of a start-up company from London, which has developed an App for museums, which is called SMARTIFY. I think this way of working, with different teams, and on an international level has become more the rule than an exception, in the contemporary European cultural landscape.
As European artists, curators and creative entrepreneurs, we have to be aware of our incredible cultural heritage, but we also have to constantly renew ourselves. We have to push the line. Otherwise, Europe will become a theme park for tourists. One big Salzburg-Paris-Venice-Disneyland, where the citizens drown in the mass of visitors, who want to make a checkmark on their “places you have to see before you die” list.
What differences in artistic, organisational and budgetary terms you see between European countries. Are there more opportunities in some cases? A lot of talent in others?
Talent is omnipresent in our continent and our generation. If there is one place in the world where you can find gifted and educated people en masse, it’s Europe. The thing is: Can they make a living from it? How to survive, and how not to get distracted from your artistic work has become a major issue. In some European countries (e.g. Scandinavia), public funding is very important, but after the big cuts that were made during the financial crisis, private funding has stepped in to a certain extent.
Many Calls for participation and grants that are directed to artists today are “international”, but they are only published in a local language. When I find out about such a grant (and seems like an interesting opportunity), I translate them and put them up on the Curatorship platform, in English, so people become aware of it.
Do you think it would be necessary and positive to establish networks and connections between all the actors in the photographic context: centres, artists, experts, projects…?
The connection between artists, curators, critics, and of course, the general public is the essence of culture. A poem that is not read, a symphony that is not played, an artwork that is not seen… what sense would it make? The hard part is finding organizations that can help showcase the work to a larger audience. As stakeholders in the field of what has been baptized the “Creative Industries” (even if this term is losing importance today) we have become players in a global game, a thrive for attention. Collaborations and networking to helps spread ideas and becoming more efficient, when we have to compete with shopping malls, theme parks, video games and other forms of the “entertainment industry”. If we want to sell our work in the art market, the networking and sales strategies have to become even more elaborated.
To what extent are you involved in new technologies and artists who use image beyond photography?
As said before, I am interested in new media, and the visual arts in general. My special field of interest and expertise is photography, but always in the context of visual culture. After all, photography can be many things: A tool of repression and control, a useful device in the fields of the news, the fashion and advertisement industry, tourism, but also in medicine, psychology, and in the realms of political and ecological activism. The open boundaries of the photographic medium make it unique, powerful and vulnerable. Cameras and mobile phones produce still and moving images alike; they can scan objects to be 3D-printed; they can be used in installations, projections and performances; and they appear in publications of all kinds, including websites and blogs, newspapers and magazines, pamphlets and posters, books and Apps.
However, I find it most interesting to analyse the photographic medium in the framework of visual culture: Photography as Art, as memory, as a proof of things that have been, the photograph as an object, but also as pure information, data to be mined and collected and (re)searched and stored by machines, by an Apparatus, in Vilém Flusser’s sense of the word.
Thanks to your work you are in contact with many artists who are at different points in their careers, some of them are recognized and others are just beginning. What difficulties do they encounter today? What would you say to those who start?
After studying the technical and aesthetic basics of the medium, and in parallel to becoming a better image-maker, I would advise artists to get informed about the fundamental topics and ideas of photography in the visual studies context. The great changes that photography has undergone in the last 10 or 15 years mostly have to do with the digitalization, virtualization, massification, or democratization of the medium. However, the materiality of the photograph, its status as an object that has to be born into the real world, as opposed to an image on a screen, still is an issue, especially in the context of art. When I speak to photography students about their projects, I often ask them what the “final product” of their investigation will be, that is, how the project will materialize. If their works will be bought one day by a museum, where will the registrar put the number?
I think it’s important for everyone to have a constant training, to look for references, to get in touch with other artists and show the work to receive a feed back. Do you think so?
When I participate in workshops and portfolio reviews, I am most interested in seeing contemporary work made by photographers and media artists, especially documentary, social and conceptual work. I am less interested in traditional and commercial work, life-style and fashion, because I do not know a lot about these fields. Also, I am not a photographer, so I cannot help to make better pictures, technically speaking. What I do feel confident doing is coaching image-makers to become better artist and to tell stories that matter; to avoid clichés and find new ways of showing and – why not – changing the world we live in today; to develop their full potential and make get out more of the themes they have chosen.
Needless to say that I try to maintain the contact with photographers I find interesting, for future collaborations. In the case that I cannot include them in one of the shows I curate for festivals and institutions, I am known to try his best to give useful advice, casual mentoring and even contact information of other people who might well be interested in your work.
Networking is a must for artists. Thus, knowing curators, gallery owners, critics and collectors is vital.
You are the expert of the workshop to be held in Zagreb, do you have contact with artists and projects from Eastern Europe?
Of course. I have participated in numerous festivals and portfolio reviews in the CEE region, for example in Bratislava, Lodz, Kaunas, and Budapest, to name just a few from the top of my head. Many of my students are from countries in this region, too. To be able to come to Croatia means a lot to me, in order to be able to learn more about what’s going on there. I have not been in Zagreb for many years, and I am curious to see the changes in the city, the cultural landscape, and the minds of the people.