Ways of Unseeing
Lunds konsthall 23 September 2023–21 January 2024.
Harun Farocki, Cecilia Germain, Maria Jacobson, Chloé Galibert-Laîné & Kevin B. Lee, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Patricia Morosan, Magnhild Øen Nordahl, Elske Rosenfeld, Birender Kumar Yadav.
Ways of Unseeing brings together artworks that refer in various ways to the inadequacies of visual representation. The participating artists all work with different ways of evoking the invisible through the adoption of absence as an artistic strategy. Rather than suggesting that one way of depicting the world is superior to another, they emphasise the fact that each method of representation offers its own specific opportunities and limitations.
The title of the exhibition is a reference to art critic John Berger’s (1926–2017) popular and ground-breaking 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing and the eponymous companion book. Berger wanted to make the contents of traditional painting accessible, and dispel the public’s sense that they were clouded in obscurity. He set out to challenge the notion that understanding an artwork requires specialised knowledge of art history. His demystification of visual codes was only made more effective by the way he connected historical subjects to aspects of popular culture and the visual idiom of the commercial world.
Alongside Berger’s TV series and ideas, the films and video installations of author and filmmaker Harun Farocki (1944–2014) play a central role in this exhibition. Several of these works were compiled from existing materials: photographs, film footage, and digital animations that were already, circulating in the world, but which weren’t intended for viewing so much as for other purposes. In order to analyse these kinds of pictures, which were sourced, amongst others, from military, industrial, and surveillance-related contexts, Farocki claims that we need to gain insight into the ways they are circulated and used in complex networks. Besides humans, these networks are populated by machines and computers.
Berger, like Farocki, rooted his theoretical and artistic projects within a culture in which photography and film were both afforded an exalted status as the ultimate records of truth. These thinkers both acknowledged the true complexities of the relationship between knowing and seeing. Ways of Unseeing highlights the ways that Berger and Farocki – and all the other participating artists – help us attain a richer, more complex understanding of visual materials and the influence that they wield.