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5 Minutes with… Mois de la Photo Director Katia Meir

With a deep résumé in arts management that includes everything from the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery to the SBC gallery to the Biennale de Montréal, Katia Meir took the helm of the Mois de la Photo biennial in 2014. She came into this nearly 30-year-old organization amidst preparations for the exciting edition that will be on view in art centres throughout the city from September 10 to October 11 2015, conceived by guest curator Joan Fontcuberta, from Catalonia, around the theme of The Post-photographic Condition. She gave us 5 minutes of her time.

What was the thinking behind this year’s theme?

In short, we wanted to look at how technologies like the internet, smartphones, social media platforms, even security cameras, have changed how we as individuals communicate and function through image, and also how artists produce their work.

Was it conceived of in conjunction with the curator, Joan Fontcuberta?

Yes. Joan is an artist as well as a curator, and he’s been passionate about this thematic and had been writing about it extensively since even before he joined us. He knows a lot of artists that are very informed about what’s going on within this realm, and his excitement about it is infectious. With this excess of images, this nearly infinite number that now exists, it’s amazing because we now have access to so much information that we really didn’t have before. But it also kind of trivializes images in a way. Before we used to value the image by putting it into a frame, or a book; now we have photos that we just keep on taking over and over again on our smartphones, and maybe some make it out there, but many we just don’t look at ever again. For those that get disseminated on apps like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, then they can get appropriated, so it calls into question the whole idea of authorship. While I say artists appropriate images, Joan likes to use the term “adopting” images, because we kind of orphan them when we put them out there in the world, and these artists are adopting them and using them, therefore becoming their new parent, if you will. Giving them new life.

Have you been more self-conscious about your own image taking since working on this exhibition?

Well that’s just it – I still have a digital camera, but now I use my cell phone, and it’s not the same thing at all. My relationship to photography is changing. I use it more for documentation, as a memory aid, to stop a moment like at a family gathering; before I would take the time to take relatively good shot.

Will there be an interactive aspect to the exhibition?

Not really in terms of user interaction, like things to shoot with your own smartphone and all that, but there are works within it that function along those lines. There’s a Montreal duo, Grégory Chatonsky and Dominique Sirois, who worked on a piece for which he went to a dream bank. They built a database of people’s dream descriptions, and he has selected some of these dreams and created an app that can take these descriptions and, through keywords, it grabs images from the internet, which are then distorted and projected onto the wall. It’s a very immersive installation. It’s like walking into a dreamscape.

What’s another work you’re excited to see up and running?

Patricia Piccinini is an Australian artist who does work that’s very grotesque and appealing at the same time; it’s otherworldly in a way, yet very human. She talks a lot about mutation. It’ll be really interesting to see how people respond to it. Otherwise, the duo Adam Broomberg and Oliver Shanahan, from England, have been working with the bible in conjunction with the Archive of Modern Conflict, which is a private archive of images that was developed in Toronto. As you can imagine from its name, a lot of the images are about conflict, but it’s a very wide definition of the term. They’ve worked with and adopted some of those images and applied them to the bible. You have everything in the bible, right, you have love, hate, war, family – every kind of meaningful life experience. They connect the words of the bible with superimposed images. It’s very interesting on many, many levels. How you contextualize images, what does an image mean, how it changes from one place to another – I could go on for a long time about that work.

Are the artists more international or local for this edition?

It’s actually half-half: half Canadian and half international. This edition has a lot of Europeans, but the five continents are represented. Of the Canadian artists, half are from Montreal, as a way to give visibility to our local artists.

Are there lost of moving images, or is it mostly photography?

There are a lot of video installations this year, so it’s not only photography. We really examine the contemporary image in a wider sense.

Published Wednesday, September 9th 2015

Header image credit: Domain, by Patricia Piccinini, from the Nature’s Little Helpers series (2005)



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