Capitalist Realism through Contemporary Photography: A Critical Anticipation | 當代攝影與資本主義現實主義的批判姿態


Inspired by the Capitalist Realism movement in the 1960s German carried out by Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg (Konrad Fischer), this essay discusses the possibility of the evocation for the movement's critical stance towards the society through the effort of contemporary photography. It is an introductory essay assigned by LEAP (http://leapleapleap.com).

Full text is available in LEAP, issue 39, June 2016.

本文應『LEAP藝術界』(http://leapleapleap.com)所作,為其當期以『資本主義現實主義』為主題的攝影別冊導言部分。文章回顧了20世紀60年代由Sigmar Polke,Gerhard Richter和Konrad Lueg(Konrad Fischer)等藝術家在德國發起的『資本主義現實主義』運動,並號召當代攝影在根植於這一批判性的歷史傳統的基礎之上,發展出屬於當代的社會批判之可能性。

全文可見於『當代攝影與資本主義現實主義的批判姿態』,LEAP藝術界,issue 39,2016年6月。

----------------------------------------------------

“Capitalist Realism”. That was how German artists Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg (Konrad Fischer) named their “Teutonic version of Pop”[1] Meeting in their twentieth at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, both Polke and Richter were emigrants with their families from the Soviet controlling area to West Germany due to political and economic reasons. In 1963, the artists held their “first exhibition of 'German Pop Art’ ” (Richter) in an abandoned shop at Düsseldorf, and Richter and Lueg also performed a liveshow “Living with Pop – A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism” in the Berges department store, showing the public a scene of ordinary life in a staged living room. Through their artworks and performances, the German generations simultaneously “were parodying the overnight ascendance of Pop Art, with its celebrity culture and embrace of everyday commodities, as well as the German craze for all things American”[2] and interrogating the predominant doctrine called “Socialist Realism” adopted in the communist world.

From its origin as a confrontation of “Socialist Realism”, it seems reasonable for the photographer and writer Jörg Colberg to deploy “Capitalist Realism” as a description of certain contemporary photography. “Much like Socialist Realism, which set out to celebrate the successes of collectivism… Capitalist Realism celebrates the beauty of an economic system that relies on a brutish, brutal political foundation that ultimately benefits the select few, while leaving out the rest.”[3] In his essay, Tol Seidel’s Dubai landscape and Nadav Kander’s “ruin porn” were selected to support his argument. On the one hand, a Capitalist Realism is an index of money with the dismiss of the power of men, as shown by the sky scrapers in Dubai without a sight of humankind. On the other side, images of remnants indicate Capitalist Realism’s “underlying economic credo: what isn’t fit to survive must perish or be disrupted.” However, hasn’t Colberg to some extent invalidated the idea of Capitalist Realism by imposing its literal meaning on certain photographic phenomena with the deracination of the word’s historical context? To me, it is the very embedded spirit within the history of Capitalist Realism that potentially accounts for a critical engagement in today’s art world.

Colberg’s “Capitalist Realism” is cast in an inductive predicament. Notwithstanding the landscape diminishing human existence and “ruin porn” are photographic embodiments of Capitalist Realism, but by recontextualizing the term historically, his argument however excludes other open possibilities for photographic representations that reflecting, refracturing, or tackling the capilaltist reality. For instance, I consider Martin Parr’s documentary of British consumerism and Slim Aarons’s pool pictures of the society class have much more to say with Capitalist Realism, because they both demonstrate life scenes of consumer culture among different classes within the capitalist economy, echoing to the practices of Pop Art movement with a critical stance[4]. In many of their photographs, the trace of, and even the human themselves, are never intentionally dissolved. While in Massimo VitaliIn’s Pool and Disco projects, the crowds and the environments are always considered as a holistic complex projecting to a collective psychological condition that stems from the consumerism lifestyle. Namely, the emphasis on spectacles without human existence could be a representation of Capitalist Realism, but it is never the only answer. Moreover, from an orthodox Marxist point of view, by emphasising the Capitalist Realism as a revolt to Socialist Realism, it is the analysis of different class and ideological orientations of both sides that should be considered, rather than the photographic style and theme. In a broader sense, all documentations and representations of the reality, surreality, and even hyperreality absurdly permeating our world should be taken into consideration.

This departure, therefore, rapidly expands the list of photographers who are seriously concerned with the Capitalist Reality under the light of Capitalist Realism. From Wolfgang Tillmans’s What's Wrong with Redistribution (2016), to Wang Jingsong’s Standard Family (1996); from Brian Ulrich’s colourful photographs of consumer culture to Philip Kwame Apagya’s African studio photography, what indeed deserves for more attention is whether Capitalist Realism in the alleged “late capitalist society”, in which discourses of identity, hybridity, feminism, and post-colonialism have entangled, could re-enchant its critical magic towards the society as it did in the 1960s through contemporary photographic endeavours. Like Tillmans, his interrogation on redistribution, an economic process, was undertaken by the truth study centre with the employment of collage as an essential measure of presentation, recalling me what had been done by the earlist German Capitalist Reality artists. Philip Kwame Apagya, a Ghanaian photographer who produces studio photographs with African portraits agains painted backdrops, drives the audience to rethink the rising capitalism and modernisation project in Africa, decentralising the traditional Western visual hegemony. I insist, in such photographic efforts the original critical stance of Capitalist Realism can be rediscovered, and that will illuminate us to see and to perceive our contemporary world.

译文:

“资本主义现实主义”是德国艺术家西格玛·珀尔克、杰哈德·里希特和康拉德·卢埃格(日后改名为康拉德·费舍尔)对他们“日耳曼波普”的命名。珀尔克与里希特在杜塞尔多夫艺术学院相遇时不过二十来岁,他们都是因政治经济原因随自己的家庭从苏联控制区迁徙到西德的移民。1963年,这些艺术家们在杜塞尔多夫的一家废弃商店里举办了“第一个’德国波普艺术’展”(里希特语),随后里希特与卢埃格又在当地的柏格思百货商店进行了一场名为“波普生活:一次资本主义现实主义的展示”的行为表演,向观众展示了一个客厅内的普通生活场景。通过他们的作品与表演,新一代的德国艺术家“戏谑着波普艺术通过名人效应与摆弄日常商品的一夜成名,以及当时德国对于一切美国事物的狂热”,并质疑了社会主义世界占统治地位的“社会主义现实主义”艺术教条。

从其作为“社会主义现实主义”的对立面这一起源出发,摄影师与作家卓格·考尔伯格从“资本主义现实主义”展开来描述某些当代摄影作品显得并无不妥。“就像讴歌集体主义之伟大的社会主义现实主义一样……资本主义现实主义赞美一种建立在野蛮而残酷的政治基础之上的经济系统,它最终只有利于被选中的一部分人,而抛弃被剩余者。”在考尔伯格的文章中,托尔·席德尔的迪拜景观与那达夫·坎德的废墟影像被选做支撑其论点的例子。一方面,资本主义现实主义的景观指向了金钱与资本,无人的迪拜摩天大楼显示了人力的消解。另一方面,废墟的图像暗示了资本主义现实主义“潜藏的经济信条:不适宜生存的事物必须灭亡或被摧毁。”然而,在仔细考察了这一论点及论据后,笔者怀疑,由于考尔伯格对资本主义现实主义的论述架空了其历史语境,因此很有可能导致了这一概念的失效。而资本主义现实主义对于如今的艺术界进行批判的可能性,则正内嵌于它的历史语境中。

在这里,考尔伯格的“资本主义现实主义”陷入了一种归纳法的窘境之中。如果赞同刻意减少人的存在痕迹的景观与废墟影像是资本主义现实主义的摄影表现形式,那么我们是否就可以说这些形式就是资本主义现实主义本身呢?考尔伯格替这一术语总结出了这两个特征,但笔者认为,从其历史语境的纵深层面出发,资本主义现实主义应当拥有远远不止这两个特征。比如说,马丁·帕尔对英国消费主义的纪实摄影和斯林姆·阿伦关于上层社交的泳池照片更加能够与资本主义现实主义进行对话,因为它们都展现了消费文化贯穿不同阶级的生活场景,以一种批判性姿态回应了波普艺术运动的实践。在许多他们的照片中,人类的痕迹,乃至人类本身都没有被有意地消解。在玛斯莫·维塔利林的《泳池》与《迪斯科》系列中,人群与环境总是被看成一个整体的复合存在,指向一种根植于消费主义生活方式的集体心理。也就是说,对无人奇观的强调可以作为某种资本主义现实主义的再现,但是它不会是唯一的答案。更甚者,从传统马克思主义的视角出发,如果资本主现实主义是对社会主义现实主义的一种反驳,那么对于两者不同阶级与意识形态为导向的分析才更应该被考虑,而不是照片的风格与主题。在更广阔的层面上,所有对于突兀地弥散在世界中的现实、超现实乃至超级现实的记录与再现都已经列入考察之中。

因此,这一出发点急剧扩展了在资本主义现实主义的观照下对于资本主义现实有着严肃思考的摄影师名单。沃尔夫冈·提尔曼斯的《再分配出了什么问题》(2016)把再分配这一经济过程置于“真理研究院”的审视之下。把拼贴作为一种必要的呈现手段让我想起了最早的德国资本主义现实主义艺术家们。菲利普·夸梅·阿帕戈雅,一名来自加纳的摄影师,在摄影棚中被绘制背景板前为非洲人拍摄肖像,力图让观众反思非洲的资本主义崛起与现代化运动,被视为对西方的视觉霸权去中心化的实践。笔者坚持认为,这些摄影实践,资本主义现实主义本初的批判姿态可以被再次发掘,这一批判的视角则将照亮前路,让我们得以看见并理解当代世界。

-----------------------------------------------------

[1] See Sooke, A. “Sigmar Polke: the artist who made Germany go Pop” on Telegraph. 07 Oct 2014: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/11144144/Sigmar-Polke-pop-art-Tate-Modern.html. accessed on 30 Apr 2016

[2] See the general introduction of “Capitalist Realism” on https://www.artsy.net/gene/capitalist-realism, accessed on 30 Apr 2016

[3] See Colberg, J. “Contemporary Photography’s Capitalist Realism” on Hyperallergic. 21 Mar 2015. accessed on 30 Apr 2016. http://hyperallergic.com/191916/contemporary-photographys-capitalist-realism/

[4] Aaron may be less critical than Parr, as he admitted that his aim was to “photographing attractive people who were doing attractive things in attractive places.” See in the exhibition catalogue of his solo exhibition Poolside at Getty Images Gallery. 31st March - 7th May.

#art #photography

Archive
Search By Tags
No tags yet.