In the context of the European Month of Photography first held in 2004 it was both legitimate and necessary to look collectively at the profound changes afoot in the world, and in particular those taking place in the field of contemporary images. This was the motivation behind the 2006 exhibition entitled Mutations I, an event focusing on technological and artistic change in the area of photography.
The second edition of the event, Mutations II, aims to pursue this line of thought on the subject of video, this time exploring the productive relationships that have developed between fixed and moving images and providing a sense of where contemporary art stands in Europe today. In a context where all means of communication and artistic media are affected by globalization and digital convergence, the era of “post-medium” we are entering is “a period characterized by the exploration of hybrid technology, in which artists combine and recombine video with a wide variety of other materials” (M. Rush, Video Art, 2007) – i.e. photography, sound art, digital video, film, DVD, computer art, CD-Rom, graphics and animation. Each art form thus increasingly falls “within the bounds of its own material limits /…/ pushing them further, to cover the entire spectrum of the community it forms along with other art forms” (L. Bellour, L’entre-images 2, 1999). By abandoning its status as a medium for freezing recorded reality and by borrowing one of its essential features, namely the temporal dimension, from video art, photography is becoming emancipated via all kinds of artistic manipulations and technical hybridizations, both analogue and digital.
The people behind Mutations II have thus chosen to showcase European artists who have in common a taste for experimenting with new forms of expression. Like Nancy Spector in her essay Art Photography after Photography, they have effectively questioned the specific criteria that used to make it possible to draw a distinction between a photographer and an artist working with photography. A growing number of photographers are using video, and this is changing the specific criteria that define both crafts. Apart from the diversity of their aesthetic standpoints and of the visual techniques they use, the artists presented in Mutations II encourage us to step beyond the territorial considerations and academic definitions which tend to ring-fence artistic fields, and to explore the boundaries that separate them. In other words Mutations II invites us to discover new territory, investigating both fixed and moving images via the tensions that motivate them. These include an ontological tension between that which is momentary and that which takes place over time, an aesthetic tension arising from the hybridization of the traditional photographic image and the moving image, and a dialectical tension between the limited display possibilities open to photographs and “the infinity of perceptional combinations within which electronic images can be defined and articulated” (Les nuouvelle images, 2001), particularly video installation.
According to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “there can be no territory without a vector for exiting that territory /…/, without an effort to reterritorialize oneself elsewhere” (G. Deleuze, L’abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze, 2004). If we restrict this philosophical question to the field of art, we might suggest that the specific dynamic of any artistic trend is a centrifugal force that tends to move it away from current conventions and norms, an “exit vector” whose very existence is predicated upon how new its worldview is. What these European artists have in common is the way they submit photography and/or video to various forms of distortion. In this way they explore the lines of perspective that form at the boundaries of the two territories, setting up a new regime of image and perception; by the same token they push the photographic and videographic idiom to its limits, and it is these very limits that constitute the necessary condition for the emergence of originality and of “style” as defined by Deleuze. These new experiments in pushing photography and video over the edge of their habitually assigned boundaries give us a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at the world and encourage us to re-invent our daily lives, seeing them “according to the artwork” to quote Merleau-Ponty.