“What does it mean to collect and exhibit?” This is the starting point for a group show that contemplates the role of the museum in contemporary knowledge production. Photo Elysée in Switzerland holds more than one million objects, with photographs dating back to the birth of the medium in 1839. Across 600 images, visitors are invited to consider what museums do with collections and how they evolve over time, alongside the wider cultural and social consequences of 21st century curation.
More than any other artistic practice perhaps, photography has a fluidity that lends itself to multiple uses outside gallery walls – it is used to give evidence in courtrooms, sell products on advertising billboards, by scientists to study human biology and mark rituals of life, such as birthdays or weddings. Now, with the ubiquity of smartphones, it has become a form akin to words.
“Our collections, with their wide range of photographic techniques and diverse genres … have been built according to a generalist approach to photography for almost four decades,” notes the curator Lars Willumeit (b. 1974). “They are emblematic of our various acquisition policies adopted over time but are also capable of dialoguing the diversity of contemporary studies devoted to the image through disciplines such as art history, anthropology, gender studies, history, sociology and cultural studies.” Mexican-British artist Alinka Echeverría (b. 1981), for example, combines a background in anthropology with a critical approach to imagemaking to examine structures of visual representation – inviting viewers to question curatorial decisions.
60 SPECIES OF PHOTOGRAPHIC SPACES
Photo Elysée, Lausanne | Until 29 January
1. Alinka Echeverría, Aala, 18, in Rivas – St. Saphorin (2016). Analogue C-print. © Alinka Echeverría.
2. Nicolas Faure, 9: route du Simplon (VS), Novembre 2003 © Nicolas Faure.