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David Claerbout in Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie: Reconsidering Icons

The Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, in 2020 under the patronage of Monika Grütters, German Minister of State for Culture and the Media, will investigate from 29.2. to 26.4.2020 how photography became a symbol for the excesses of contemporary society under the title The Lives and Loves of Images. With his concept, David Campany, the curator of the Biennale, concentrates his attention on the contradictory feelings which photography can evoke – from passionate affection to strong skepticism. In six exhibitions at six houses in Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg, contemporary and historical works by around 70 international artists and photographers will be shown.

David Campany focuses on contemporary fine-art photography and places it in a historical continuity. The Lives and Loves of Images consists of six thematic exhibitions: The exhibition Reconsidering Icons at the Museum Weltkulturen der Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim, will showcase contemporary works that employ various strategies to offer the audience a second glance at photographs we all think we know. Some of the artistic projects go back to the place where these iconic images were taken, while others reconstruct them using new technologies such as virtual reality and 3D modeling

Reconsidering Icons at the We are all acutely aware of the phenomenon of the iconic image. Newspapers and news websites regularly describe photographs as ‘iconic’. And if a photograph does become well known, news outlets are quick to capitalize by running secondary stories about its fame, which only serves to extend the image’s reach and cultural domination. It is an echo chamber of the image, and a hall of mirrors. Of the billions of images in the world, just a few have become iconic. The exhibition Reconsidering Icons contains no iconic images, and yet it is full of them. It draws together various projects from recent years that use strategies of remaking, revising and redefining. Some projects return to the site where iconic images were made. Some reconstruct them. Some track iconic images across their various media manifestations. Some use new technologies such as virtual reality and 3D modeling, to return us to images made in earlier epochs of photography. Whatever the strategy, the iconic image is approached as a complex form of cultural commons to be looked at critically, philosophically and playfully. If iconic images belong to the public imagination, we must have an imaginative relation to them.

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