The new director of Fotogalleriet in Oslo is the Italian curator Antonio Cataldo. He has previously produced and managed exhibitions and discursive programmes at the Scandinavian Office for Contemporary Art Norway and for the OCA’s contribution to the Venice Biennale in Italy. Interview by Nina Strand
- Never like before we’re surrounded by images; we are actually submerged by photographic images and we do not always understand images in a very conscious way. We are therefore reactive instead of proactive. I believe in this context art photography, which is constantly ahead of time because of its experimental nature, can be used as a tool to rethink our habitats, and therefore our lives. Though it seems that we are moving out of physical spaces, exhibitions have still a lot of power today as they are able to mediate a discourse. Exhibition spaces are the place where one can stop just using images, instead meeting and interacting with them in a more playful way. It is an exercise to traverse and comprehend images.
The upcoming exhibition at Fotogalleriet is Vårutstillingen, followed by Petrine Vinje and then Bouchra Khalili. Cataldo starts his new position in August.
- I want to challenge people to come closer to photography, and to a more experimental approach to it. I think we still underestimate the power of this medium. And the power of image making, and how images affect us on an everyday basis through rules established by mass and social media. I think artists have a lot to say when it comes to building a different imagery of what we can all be. This unique power of art is in itself exciting. It allows a different negotiation with the world.
Through Fotogalleriet's programme I want to bring people from different generations in the space to talk about these vital issues at stake in photography, always starting from the work of artists, as they are the ones locating, sensing and spinning vital discussions through their incessant work. Artists’ work will be the starting point of the programme, to move towards larger discussions about how art can contribute to a forward-looking society.
While working at Fotogalleriet, Cataldo will also complete his PHD in Practice in Curating within the Platform for Curatorial and Cross-disciplinary Cultural Studies at the University of Reading, UK, and the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland.
- I’m a member of a PhD programme for professionals based between the UK and Switzerland. It’s an academic brainstorm platform, and an occasion to share ideas with international curators, directors and other peers on a number of art projects currently being under production all around the world, while finding a philosophical framework and a practical approach to our way of working. My PhD thesis relates to some of the issues we are discussing now, as it looks at the role of documentarian practices in the seventies in Scandinavia, a pivotal moment for photography, and a turning point for the medium and its exposition. In “The Portable, the Dissolvable, the Transmissible: migratory practices of exposition”, I’m case studying a number of exhibitions in Scandinavia and elsewhere which challenged methodologies of display, art making and precarious living conditions while rethinking the value of those methodologies today. How can we use those revolutionary lessons, their radical approach, while addressing a global shift in the production and distribution of images and ideas is part of the writing of this history, and of the making of our present.
Cataldo studied with Giorgio Agamben, calling the philosopher a radical thinker of image making.
- Though he is widely known for his work on political philosophy. In the early 2000 he relocated to Venice, and started a course on iconology. He taught me how we’re thinking through images; to think about the unconscious aspect of images and their hidden temporality; how images of the past somehow reconnect unexpectedly to the future. At the time he was working on Nymphs, a book which analyses Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas and the afterlife of images; gestures, photography and choreography being at the center of this discourse. This was important for me in order to rethink what we consider the “new” in our societies. And, what I say about creating a dialogical discourse, by putting images together into an exhibition form, comes from him.