© Alejandra Carles-Tolra, Untitled, from the series Where We Belong, originally commissioned through the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, 2017

EVENTS: Jerwood/Photoworks Awards related talks and events

To accompany the Jerwood/Photoworks Awards, a series of events have been programmed to further explore the themes and issues that are raised in the three artists’ body of works.

All events are free but booking is recommended as space is limited. All events take place at Jerwood Space, London. 

February 5: Joanna Zylinska: Pictures from the End of the World: Nonhuman Photography

Joanna Zykinska’s invitation to talk about ‘non-human photography’ has been motivated by Sam Laughlin’s photographs tracing animal behaviours and natural processes in the landscape.

Today, in the age of CCTV, drone media, and satellite imaging, photography is increasingly decoupled from human agency and human vision. It can also literally see the end of the world. The notion of ‘nonhuman photography’ proposed by Joanna Zylinska, will expand the human-centric idea of photography to embrace imaging practices from which the human is absent: from the contemporary high-tech examples provided by traffic control cameras, space photography, and Google Earth, through to deep-time impression-making processes such as fossilisation. The Anthropocene, understood as a global ecological-economic crisis in which the human is said to have become a geological agent, will frame the analysis to highlight the interweaving of the photographic medium with chemistry, minerals, fossil fuels, and the sun—but also with us humans. By examining a number of visual projects, including some from her own practice, Zylinska will argue that the Anthropocene becomes visible to us through altered light, and through the particulate matter reflected in it. She will also suggest that photography can allow us humans to ‘unsee’ ourselves from our own narcissistic parochialism, and to imagine a more ecological vision of selfhood.

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February 19: Maria Walsh: Performative therapeutics in artists’ moving image

A talk by Maria Walsh, exploring the performative dimension of artists’ moving image works in which therapeutic techniques and discourses are used to generate effects that circulate beyond individual psycho-physiologies and instead enact a critical relation to neoliberal discourses of self-affirmation. This shift towards a social critique of therapeutic discourse in artists’ work contrasts with the reception of therapy discourse in art in the 1990s, whereby art historian Hal Foster bewailed its use by artists such as Sue Williams, comparing it to reality TV chat shows in which trauma narratives of damaged subjectivities were proclaimed as the truth of authentic experience. On the one hand, this situation has exacerbated today as the injunction to speak one’s truth, which has devolved into a desirable form of micro-celebrity in which everyone can be an actor or protagonist in their own drama. However, on the other hand, rather than the truth of a damaged body, the therapeutic subject characteristic of our neoliberal era is deemed to be in control of their desire and will to change, yet paradoxically in need of cognitive retraining to achieve transformation.

Artists have both mined and critiqued the ethos of ‘therapy culture’. Artists such as Gillian Wearing walk a fine line between taking a vicarious interest in the pathological public sphere referred to by Mark Selzter as ‘wound culture’ (1997), taking a more reflective approach to this phenomenon. More recently, Wearing’s 2010 experimental documentary film ‘Self-Made’ posited a productive tension between a performative acting out of trauma and a use of method acting techniques to objectify and/or manufacture experience. In a different but related context, artist Oriana Fox created and hosted her own reality TV therapy chat show, ‘The O Show’ (2011-ongoing), episodes of which were performed live for an art audience and broadcast simultaneously online. Fox claims the work is about the therapeutic potential of performance, yet it also generates a conflictual space in which the neoliberal impetus towards self-improvement is both advocated and critiqued. In straddling a fine line between authenticity and parody, works such as these extend Judith Butler’s 1990s concept of performativity which held that identity norms can be resignified by the repetitive iteration of learned behaviours and rituals. This talk will explore whether moving image works that enact a parodic staging of therapeutic techniques present a manipulative capitulation to norms and or/self-exploitation or propose a transformative logic that is beyond the neoliberal injunction to perform well.

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February 26: ‘We’re Reclaiming Dyke Completely’: Legacies of the Lesbian Sex Wars

What happens when images, ideas and aesthetics are recycled, without retaining the beliefs or highlighting the context that gave them their initial charge? What happens when communities simultaneously forget and rediscover a shared history? This talk considers the Sex Wars as a turning point for organised feminism, and situates them against a renewed interest in feminist politics and lesbian iconography.

From the late 1970s to the 1990s, the representation of women and the politics of pornography galvanized debate in feminist and lesbian circles. Sex radical dykes embraced what were seen as perverse desires, while radical and revolutionary feminists rallied against them. Known as the Sex Wars, these debates stretched to encompass other practices that could be understood as patriarchal, or mimicking masculine behaviour: S/M, butch/femme identification, and penetration were cast as liberatory and taboo in equal measure.

The art and imagery which emerged from the Sex Wars are linked to these politics. Increasingly, such images are being re-circulated through social media, or cannibalised for their slogans and iconography. Now shared through digital platforms and printed on t-shirts and badges, their histories are elided, while in the post-Trump and post-Weinstein resurgence of popular feminism, the debates they marked are reconstituted with new emphases.

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For more about the awardees and their work, click here.