“So, what can we do? How do we move forward?” This question was asked by an audience member during the Hands Off Our Revolution workshop that accompanied our show Subjektiv at Malmö Konsthall this summer. The invited speakers were reflecting on the relationship between art and activism today. The young woman who raised her hand was skeptical about such a workshop taking place in an institution. What did we know, being situated in the context of the white cube, as opposed to making punk zines and living in squat as she was? Her question is timely. What can we do?
This year, both issues of Objektiv look into the relationships that may arise between art, politics, and subjecthood at the current moment—hence our temporary rebranding as Subjektiv. Part I was launched in June, together with the opening of the aforementioned exhibition. Both the show and the magazine issues investigate the present state and condition of subjectivity – and its political potential or impotence.
We live in digital social spaces marked by a constant flow of expressions of emotion. We photograph, articulate, and distribute our images on a completely different scale from before. The spaces this creates are extremely personal but also politically significant because of their collective impact. Observing interpersonal interactions, especially through social media, plays an important role for several artists in the exhibition and in the accompanying issues. Contributors herein seek a more complex political subject, one that folds subjectivity within novel forms of collectivity. As Penelope Umbrico writes in these pages, “I can’t help thinking that society’s current manic selfie production is the result of a kind of existential anxiety based on a profound fear of subjective erasure.”
Subjektiv part II presents twenty-seven artists, curators, and thinkers offering their critical perspectives on the issues at stake and on the status of the subjective as an artistic strategy today. Travis Diehl opens the issue with an essay on how feelings have been turned into facts. Brendan Wattenberg, Basim Magdy, Prajna Desai, and Torbjørn Rødland share their thoughts through words and images. Rødland doesn’t believe that artists have to compete with simplified messages or imitate the crude politics of visibility in order to reconfigure this world, writing that, “A more enduring fight is the one for increased complexity, which many will forgo in times of chaos.”
“Freedom is based in the political as a communal act,” states Rosa Barba, citing Hannah Arendt. Those presenting longer image series in combination with text include our cover artist Lauren Davis, as well as Hannah Whitaker and Morten Andenæs, whose The Island has been given new connotations in the aftermath of the Utøya massacre. Some have met our invitation by writing about post-truth; many mention Donald Trump. Others explain how they make their own work or discuss subjective photography. Some statements are merely made through images, as with Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa and Shannon Ebner.
We’re not sure that these twenty-seven subjective statements answer the question asked by the young woman during the workshop in Malmö. But they do offer a summary of how artists of today see and use the subjective in the context of today’s political condition.
This year Objektiv host a table at the bookfair Polycopies during Paris Photo - here we will also present Norwegian photo books, the latest publications from Teknisk Industri, Multipress, Heavy Books, Cornerkiosk Press, and artists like Eline Mugaas, Ola Rindal, Christina Leithe H., Marie Sjøvold & Katarina Skjønsberg. Bienvenue !
Objektiv is at Polycopies from the 8th until the 11th of November. Bateau Concorde-Atlantique / Berges de Seine - Port de Solferino/ 75007 Paris/ Metro: Concorde ou Assemble Nationale
We would like to thank OCA and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Paris for their support.