The Alchemists: Rediscovering Photography in the Age of the Jpeg

The Alchemists: Rediscovering Photography in the Age of the Jpeg

The Alchemists: Rediscovering Photography in the Age of the Jpeg was a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Photography, The Australian National University and The University of Sydney, involving an exhibition, symposium, masterclass and digital publication. At a time when digital images are rapidly created and consumed, this project considered the resurgent interest in experimental darkroom processes within contemporary photography. The project invoked new hybrid practices to home in on the nexus between analogue and digital photography, with particular consideration of an Australian perspective within a broader Asia-Pacific context.

EVENTS

EVENT DATES LOCATION OTHER
Exhibition 30 October - 6 December 2015 

Australian Centre for Photography

257 Oxford Street, Paddington

View the catalogue

Symposium 5 December 2015

Sydney College of the Arts Auditorium

Kirkbride Way, Lilyfield

How to get to SCA

View the videos

SYMPOSIUM

10am - 5pm, Saturday 5 December
SCA Auditorium, Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Kirkbride Way, Rozelle

SESSION ONE
Blindness and Insight: Photography and/as Ruin
Geoffrey Batchen

That which can be seen is not all there is
Ben Cauchi in conversation with Geoffrey Batchen

SESSION TWO
Chaos Wranglers
David Haines + Joyce Hinterding

HANDCRAFTED: The art and practice of the hand made photograph at gold street studios
Ellie Young

SESSION THREE
No safe light
Martyn Jolly in conversation with Ben Lichtenstein + Laura Moore

What ever you do, do not drink your photo chemicals
Todd McMillan

VIDEO ARCHIVE

Session 1

Blindness and Insight: Photography and/as Ruin
Professor Geoffrey Batchen


The last exhibition to be shown in the current incarnation of the Australian Centre for Photography, The Alchemists replaces the humanist documentary of the institution’s founders with a display of photographs as things in themselves. These alchemical things have rendered photography as blind, at least to an outside world, and even as a medium in ruins, with only a few desultory shards left to remember it (and the ACP) by. Batchen's lecture traces a history for the photograph as ruin and ask what insights into the nature of the medium such a metaphor might make possible.

Professor Geoffrey Batchen teaches art history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, specializing in the history of photography. His books include Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (1997), Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (2001), Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance (2004), William Henry Fox Talbot (2008), What of Shoes? Van Gogh and Art History (2009), Suspending Time: Life, Photography, Death (2010) and More Wild Ideas (forthcoming in Chinese, 2015). He has also edited Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida (2009) and co-edited Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis (2012). In April 2016, his exhibition, Emanations: The Art of the Cameraless Photograph, will open at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand. A book with the same title will be published by Prestel.



That which can be seen is not all there is
Ben Cauchi in conversation with Geoffrey Batchen

Focusing on the work of Ben Cauchi, this artist and Geoff Batchen discuss the opportunities and limitations associated with deploying antique processes in a contemporary art practice.


Session 2

Chaos Wranglers
David Haines & Joyce Hinterding

In discussing their work in The Alchemists, Haines + Hinterding attempt to come to grips with how artists wrangle chaos and how art is specifically tuned to mediating forces - the Z of creation, the zig and zag of the fly, plasma, ionization, the far infra-red part of the spectrum, the jangling of carbon across a sheet of paper.


HANDCRAFTED: The art and practice of the hand made photograph at gold street studios
Ellie Young, founder of gold street studios

As the founder of gold street studios Ellie Young has seen some huge changes in response to handmade photography. Ellie discusses the digital as the catalyst for a massive resurgence in handcrafted photographs, which has subsequently lifted gold street studios on to the international stage, drawing world-class practitioners such as New York based Jerry Spagnoli to tutor in specialist fields.

Session 3

No safe light
Dr. Martyn Jolly in conversation with Benjamin Lichtenstein + Laura Moore

For some, the 'alchemical' darkroom might connote a special place secreted away from the rush of the everyday, a place where aged connoisseurs carefully deploy their finally honed sensibilities to calibrate light and chemistry into exquisitely nuanced fine prints, a place to which young initiates can only gain entry after long apprenticeship to the strictures of chemical formulation and optical exposure. Why, then, are artists - diverse young artists - flocking to the darkroom, and then just as quickly exploding out of it with a range of different imagery?


What ever you do, do not drink your photo chemicals
Artist talk: Todd McMillan

Todd McMillan's work returns repeatedly to the favourite sites of the Romantic tradition; the sea, the sky and the mountain. The viewer is often presented with the futility of a lone individual in the face of infinite, overwhelming nature–hopelessness confronting (and somehow equivalent to) the sublime. In his recent work he has tried (and failed) to swim the English Channel, found and filmed on 16mm film the rare and endangered Shy Albatross, and crossed the Drake's passage to spend Christmas in Antarctica. Romantic both in subject and chosen media, in this talk McMillan discusses the use of antiquated technology such as overhead projectors, 16mm film, and the cyanotype process, what it is like to learn to paint in the dark and why it is ill advised to drink one's photo chemicals.

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