Regimes of Truth
“The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty..” George Orwell 1984 Part one, Chapter One.
Photography, like science is an observational study that is enhanced by a fecund imagination. This aspect of active imagination and creative ingenuity is often concealed by their rhetoric of truthfulness and their claims of veracity. It is this tension between evolving inventiveness and dissolving dogmatism that fosters knowledge and has linked both disciplines forever. But the ligand that binds both photography and science is also faith, an active faith that enables action and confidence to make bold predictions about the future. This is because the viewer must be seduced and then engage to believe. Without the suspension of disbelief the work falls flat and is therefore meaningless.
Over the last century a number of writers and thinkers have predicted our contemporary society’s information and knowledge quandary: Achebe, Flaubert, Huxley and Orwell being germane examples. With the improving affordability and influence of the print press Flaubert believed that newspapers were spreading idiocy and mental laziness a combination he crystallised into one word — la bêtise. Flaubert railed against the situation where populations were told what to think and wore these received opinions like fashion to be displayed at every opportunity. Orwell was concerned that books would be banned and society would be deprived of information but Huxley went further and was concerned that there would indeed be little reason to ban information for in the superfluity of information and saturation of falsehood the truth would be less palatable and more obscure such as to be irrelevant and unwelcome. Alternative facts are much preferred. With Achebe we are only assured in one essential truth: for the African we must find our own truth.
The 2017 edition of LagosPhoto Festival calls to reflect on these regimes of truths and beliefs, and the fading relevance of the quest for reality in our time. Contemporary photography is the new repository of the fading quest for reality, not by virtue of its supposed freedom, but because it embodies the synthesis and unmasks the contradictions of the knowledge society and its imperative for creativity. It is our point of interdependence and the most democratic tool for social engagement today in the sense that almost everyone can make pictures and share using smart phones.
Under these conceptual premises, the curatorial team at LagosPhoto led by guest curator and Duro Olowu and artistic director Azu Nwagbogu will gather established and emerging artists whose work, ironically, subtly or brutally unveil the dissemination of power and the unfolding of new irreverential global logic at work in the construction of subjectivities as fragmented, euphoric beings. As is usual with LagosPhoto, there will be no boundaries or bias based on photographic approach. Historical work, archival material, reportage, collage, conceptual and non-conceptual image based approach will be considered by Mr Olowu’s lead curatorial team.