In the course of the last two centuries photography has moved into every sphere of society, infiltrating science, art, politics, the news and social media, as well as all kinds of trade and industries. It has become a core element [dispositif] in our visual relationship with the world.
Image Capital tells a different story of photography: that of its myriad utilitarian uses and its function as an information technology, creating, processing and securing the flow of visual information/data. Framed in six chapters (memory, protection, access, imaging, mining, currency) it traces and links the past, present and future histories of photography as a storage and imaging device, employed in all sorts of industrial, scientific and cultural production.
The push for photography as an information technology occurred at a time when management and administrative procedures expanded and required optimization. Information needed to be easily available; it needed to be fluid. Long before today’s information society, capitalist formations heavily depended on the systems designed to facilitate communication and access to information resources. Photography assisted the development of global industries and large governmental apparatuses.
Digital practices appear in continuity to analogue practices, albeit at a different scale and pace. Yet, the contemporary digital practices (in modeling, engineering, agricultural production, etc.) foster, or even provoke, a re-examination of the blind spots or forgotten episodes in the historiography of photography. When, and under what circumstances, did images become operational? What is the economic power of masses of images and what role do archives and organizational systems play in not only preserving photographic ‘data’ but of generating new information and potentially new insights? What imaginaries, ideologies and rhetoric govern visual practices in capitalist societies?
This exhibition displays contemporary photographs, archival images and objects, found footage and interviews with the aim of assessing various hypotheses about the meanings and mechanisms of photography as image capital. It traces a loose historical itinerary highlighting instances and practices that aim at describing, analyzing and reflecting on contemporary digital practices. A thorough description of contemporary algorithmic image practices, still largely untapped, is the basis of all critique.
For all that, the exhibition does not exhaust the possible definitions and practices of what constitutes value in photography and how photography is embedded in all sorts of production processes and capital flows, but instead attempts to lay out threads that may be intertwined in multiple, open ways by its visitors.