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Tag "Okwui Enwezor"

Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life

International Center of Photography, New York City, 14. 9. 2012 – 6. 1. 2013


In anticipation of the publication of my review of Huis Marseille’s exhibition Apartheid & After – to be published in Camera Austria International No. 126 (June 2014) – I’m finally publishing here my review of Okwui Enwezor’s ambitious show at ICP in the fall of 2012.


Two important concepts in present-day anthropology are agency and voice, designating oppressed or marginalised people’s own views and understanding of their lives, rather than authorities speaking for them. While these concepts usually imply the written or spoken word, it is interesting to ask to what extent the mere act of being photographed is capable of giving subjects their own voice and agency. Ariella Azoulay, today’s foremost theorist of intricacies of photography in contexts of extreme political repression, wrote in The Civil Contract of Photography (2008) that people in disaster zones can make “emergency claims” by cooperating in the act of photography, thereby joining “the citizenry of photography” (where ultimately no sovereign power exists), simply by consciously staring back at the photographer. Yet much of the interpretation and reading of photographs showing people in conflict zones is guided by how these images are framed, captioned, and published—events these subjects usually have no say in.

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