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Aesthetics After Photography - Workshop Session 4

David Campany & Peter Osborne

David Campany - A Short History of Definitions


For all the current excitement or anxiety about the ontological status of photography it seems clear that it has never been a particularly simple matter. At any given moment in its history there have been competing claims for its 'essence'. David will sketch an outline of this history, looking at what has seemed to matter about the medium when, why and for whom. This will include looking at the differing definitions that emerged from the Calotype and the Daguerrotype in the 1830s and 40s, the 'decisive moment' and the Neue Sachlichkeit in the 1920s and 30s; and the preoccupation with the index in more recent accounts.

Peter Osborne - Anxiety about the Real: Art, Photography and Social Ontology (Postdigitalisation)


Photography has played a central role in debates about art and the real for over 150 years. Photographic uses of digital technologies have revived some of these debates, in new artistic and social contexts. This paper will reflect upon some of the ways in which these contexts require the reformulation of many of the issues at stake. In particular, it will argue that the critical ‘problem of medium’ for photography is not primarily that of a redefinition of photography as an artistic medium, under changed technological conditions; but rather, that of the status of artistic mediums, in general, within the transmedia condition that photography itself made possible. The transmedia condition is the condition for the generalized actualization of a generic concept of art. This concept was first theorized by the early German Romantics, and first realized, emblematically, by the readymade. It is best characterized, ontologically, as ‘post-conceptual’ art. The question of photography ‘postdigitalization’ is the question of the place and critical significance of photographical uses of digital technologies within the transmedia field of post-conceptual art. It hinges on the relationship between the ontology of the de-realized image and the historical ontology of social being, more generally.



David Campany

(Click to see image)

Beijing 2007 by David Campany