ON THE GO: Interview med Galleri Format

Vi har taget en snak med Jesper Veileby og Cian Burke fra Galleri Format i Malmø, der har kurateret den nuværende udstilling Unseen af Youngjae Lih (f. 1984) på Fotografisk Centers digitale udstillingsplatform ON THE GO. Her fortæller de om den kuratoriske proces samt de kuratoriske overvejelser de gør sig, når de finder nye talenter og skaber nye udstillinger. Vi bliver også klogere på deres forståelse af og perspektiver på kunstneren Youngjae Lih.

Interview af Isabella Aleksandra Fuchs og Pauline Koffi Vandet

From Unseen glitch, Youngjae Lih, 2018

When looking for new talent or new exhibition ideas, what do you – as curators at Galleri Format ­– look for and how do you select what artists and what you want to exhibit?

“Galleri Format is a non-profit gallery located in Malmö that aims to function as a centre for the expanded field of photography in the south of Sweden, through exhibitions, artist talks, lectures and screenings of films and video art. We have a curatorial board, of which our Artistic Director Cian Burke is a part, which meets regularly to look over our current programme and to plan the upcoming year. Once we decide to approach an artist to initiate a collaboration it is Cian who then reaches out to them and begins the process of developing a curatorial proposition for the space. As a gallery, we have a lot of questions about the nature of photography in today’s cultural landscape. With the evolution of digital technology photography becomes ever more untethered to its traditional physical medium and often starts to get intermingled with other forms of artistic expression, some with their own material traditions far from what we would associate with the realm of photography. It poses some really interesting questions about what kind of narratives can ­– and are – being told. This is the reason why we try to explore a wide range of different perspectives by striving to have an international programme while at the same time doing our outmost to both be aware of, and present, the many talents that reside in the region (both on the Swedish and Danish side of the bridge).”

It is the first time you’re working with Youngjae Lih. How did he come into your radar – and how do you approach an artist you haven’t work with before?

“We always approach artists with a genuine enthusiasm to collaborate with them and hope that they in turn are equally interested to work with us. When it comes to Malmö it is worth noting that the city itself isn’t that big, and we as a gallery try to keep track of most of what’s going on culturally here. Youngjae Lih is a very talented and exciting artist who also possesses an impressive and well-rounded arsenal of technical knowledge that, as a Malmö based artist, makes him hard to not be aware of. Several of his works also intersect with many of the queries that we ourselves have about the role and function of photography in both art and today’s society.”

Being a Malmö based non-profit gallery working in the field of art photography, documentary photography and other lens-based mediums, we wonder what your initial thoughts were on Youngjae Lih’s work since he’s working in the intersection of technology art. What fascinated you about this project?

“Looking at Lih’s body of work it runs the full gamut of photographic techniques, from darkroom prints made on handmade paper, through experimental moving image, to large-scale installations that utilise both low-fi elements such as slide projectors to advanced programming. And while he often draws on his background within electronic engineering the technical savvy of his works don’t overshadow the philosophical and aesthetical aspects of his projects. In that sense, it’s hard to pigeonhole his artistic practice, but it also presented a challenge for us when trying to choose a particular work/project. We wanted to take this opportunity to showcase Lih but at the same time we did not want to inscribe too much of ourselves in the presentation of his work. In the end we were drawn to Unseen because it has several interesting and overlapping qualities that we thought would speak well to the digital nature of the ON THE GO platform. Not only does Unseen raise a myriad of questions about camera surveillance and the constant presence of cameras in today’s everyday life, but it also deals with the very private and personal aspect of memory and the wish to hold on to something intangible through the act of seeing. The fact that the act of seeing here is mediated through digital media also raises an uncertainty about the sometimes cut and dry vilification of technology, at the same time as it highlights the unreliability of digital technology, and as an extension the unreliability of humans as biological machines themselves. It is an unsuspectingly beautiful project that carries both hope, dread and a fair amount of melancholy. And added to that, the aesthetical nature of the glitched images from Unseen glitch are visually very strong, leaving room for a wide array of entry points into this project no matter which direction an audience comes at it from.”

From Unseen glitch, Youngjae Lih, 2018

As you wrote in the exhibition text, the exhibition offers different perspectives. You can discuss the project regarding the current mass-surveillance, however, you can also rise more existential questions about the art of looking, visualization and memorization. What thoughts did you have when selecting what should be included in this exhibition? And what questions, perspectives and narratives do you want to rise with this exhibition?

“Once we had decided that we wanted to show this project it was clear that it would have to be a presentation of the entirety of Unseen (I,II and glitch). As mentioned previously, one could use Unseen as a catalyst to dive into an important discussion about our own culpability in relation to the current quantity of mass-surveillance, but in the end we came to look at this project as having several poignant questions about our psychology at its core. What is it that drives the need and wish to record one’s existence, to somehow prove to oneself the simple fact that one is. In other iterations of this work, when it has been presented physically, Lih has also taken it one step further and invited the audience to participate in the work by allowing them to actively choose images generated from the project and then placing them on maps in the exhibition space according to where they think the pictures correspond to. Essentially echoing the social interaction that he had with people during the ‘filming’, when he received directions on where to go. As such, the work is shaped through the social interaction between people, and mediated by technology that is equal parts familiar and reassuring as it is alien and invasive. We felt that this relates significantly to the nature of art and cultural venues in the age of digital communication.”

Do you believe that media such as photography and video has become sort of authorities to control the way we interact with each other?

“That’s an extremely complex issue. As more and more parts of society are being digitalised, lenses and cameras are becoming ingrained into every aspect and fibre of modern life. When it comes to authority and governmental control, the image of Big Brother is eventually evoked; always watching, always monitoring. But it would be a mistake to equate ‘watching’ with seeing. Authorities don’t need cameras or lenses anymore to watch us and to paint a picture of our activities, that is all done with the help of computers and algorithms. But it doesn’t help that majority of modern cameras are simply lenses and light receptors attached to computers, and that almost all forms of computers come with a camera of some sort. So, it’s not only the big and heavy surveillance cameras mounted around public spaces that can be used to monitor us, it’s also mobile phones, laptops, smart TVs, and even robotic vacuum cleaners. If it’s a ‘smart’ thing then it usually has some sort of camera attached to it. But the possibility to misuse it lies in it being smart, not in it being equipped with a camera. On the other hand, the accessibility for almost all levels of society worldwide to get hold of a camera these days is a powerful tool for humans to connect with one another. It allows us to document how we live, who we are, to expose injustices, to learn about other people by connecting directly person to person. But we can also use it to lie, it eats up our short time on this earth as we compulsively take pictures to a historically unprecedented degree and then spend an unjustifiable amount of time in return looking at these images. We are willingly walking around with tracking devices that monitor too many aspects of our lives. In the end the conclusion is that cameras, photo and video, are powerful tools that can be equally destructive as they can help to create. And as cameras have gone from huge boxes that record the image on fragile glass plates, to tiny devices that everyone carries around in their pockets we need to continue to have a serious discussion about the nature of cameras and the photographic image.”

About Galleri Format
Galleri Format is a non-profit gallery, located in Malmö, Sweden since 1983. The gallery presents six exhibitions annually with a focus on art and documentary photography as well as other lens-based mediums such as video.

Galleri Format has curated the current exhibition Unseen by Youngjae Lih at Fotografisk Center’s digital exhibition platform ON THE GO.

For more information please visit: www.galleriformat.nu

About the artist 
Youngjae Lih (b. 1984, South Korea) is currently based in Malmö where he works in the field within photography, video, drawings and texts. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electric and Electronic Engineering from Hong-Ik University in South Korea, 2007. In addition, Youngjae Lih holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from Korea National University of Arts in South Korea, 2014 and a Master’s Degree in Fine Art from Malmö Art Academy at Lund University in Sweden, 2016. 

Youngjae Lih has exhibited in both group and solo shows in several countries such as South Korea, Sweden, Norway, Japan, Belgium, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and China. 

For more information please visit: www.youngjaelih.com

Thank you
We would like to thank Youngjae Lih and Gallery Format for their cooperation and contributions during the online exhibition on our digital platform ON THE GO. The exhibition ends January 24th, 2021.

© Galleri Format

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