In an essay from the pandemic era Index Cards (2020), the artist-writer-photographer Moyra Davey confesses, “More important to me than fidelity and adherence to a medium is a kind of devotion to promiscuity.” The 2023 graduates of the RCA’s Photography programme express a similar tendency across a range of practices, unrestricted by the categories and conventions of material, medium, format, discipline, and genre. This is promiscuity as boundary-less and border-less, although the erotic aspect of the term also makes itself known. A commitment to process, to the unknown, to the indeterminate, to the speculative, to the haptic and hybrid, is felt across the programme’s heterogenous practices; wherein the positions, perspectives, and pleasures of the photographic image—how it moves across contexts, cultures, environments, species, subjects, technologies—are questioned and imagined anew.
As the status and meaning of the photograph rapidly shifts with the advancement of moving image and new media technologies, social media, the Internet, and AI, what role can the contemporary artist play within this changing landscape? How can we think differently about the precarities and violences to multiple life worlds, human and more-than-human, through visual forms? What can an expanded approach to photography do?
The works in our Show—which bring two graduating cohorts from a new 1-year programme and a closing 2-year programme into a public conversation that has flourished this past year in the fluid space of the studio—occupy ambiguous terrains and unfinished gestures, across shifting scales of attention and affect. There is an embrace of experimental and sustainable materials; of speculative and multisensory environments; of autofictions and fictional archives; of the energies and ecologies of inanimate objects; of the textures of images and the textures of words; of the complexities and pleasures of looking or being looked at. The historical dualisms of subject and object, observer and observed, the visible and invisible, continue to press upon the making of images, but in RCA2023, the ‘problem of representation’ is given new life.
Photography Programme Team
Image: Yuming Zhang, Bait 2023