WAS WIR TUN, Camera Austria: an Investigation into the Institution


Camera Austria International, No.69, 2000
designed by Jörg Schlick, edited by Christine Frisinghelli and Manfred Willmann



In March 2000, Camera Austria published the black issue 69 as the statement to the right wing nationalist turn that occurred in Austrian politics at the time. As an institution that carved the thinking space for photography as art, and established itself far beyond the borders of Graz and Austria, it was just one of the occasions in which Camera Austria was taking a firm stand towards the context in which they work, not confirming to the status quo and normalization. The course "WAS WIR TUN, Camera Austria, An Investigation into the Institution" will start from this moment and look how institutions for art, such as Camera Austria, develop in time and how with their development the both physical and discursive space for art is created and determined.


Camera Austria International, No.69, 2000
designed by Jörg Schlick, edited by Christine Frisinghelli and Manfred Willmann

"In 1975, we started the photo gallery in the Forum Stadtpark, a predominantly monographic exhibition program as a guest in this institution which was supplemented by thematic group exhibitions as from 1977 (e.g. “American Photographers”, 1977, “Reportage-Fotografen”, 1978, “Neue Fotografie aus Österreich”, 1981, “Penisola. Appunti per un viaggio in Italia”, 1983, “Ich-Bilder / Welt-Bilder”, 1986, “Die Rache der Erinnerung”, 1988, “Mistaken Identities”, 1993, “Another Continent”, 1994) in the frame of which both international and Austrian photographers were presented and which were organized in collaboration with Austrian and international curators and institutions.

Due to this exhibition activity, which also comprised workshops with international photographers to supplement the exhibitions (between 1977 and 1983, with Lewis Baltz, William Eggleston, Luigi Ghirri and Michael Schmidt among others), but above all due to the series of symposia on photography (as from 1979) and, since 1980, by publishing Camera Austria International magazine we have created a sustainable network of relations between artists, theorists, facilitators and institutions which has made this program of exhibitions, theory events, publications and general events possible."

Christine Frisinghelli, Maren Lübbke, Marie Röbl, Manfred Willmann, April 2000
Editorial, Camera Austria International, No. 70
Editorial Camera Austria International, No. 69

During the course we will look at the institutional history (how the current and past locations, working hours, types of exhibition spaces used, encounters and accomplices, shaped the institution), exhibition history (how the approach to "putting photography in public space" changed in time), intellectual history (focusing on magazine Camera Austria as the site of exhibiting and discoursive discussion space), as well as the changing nature of photography as the media. Institutions for which architects design spaces to contain them, and design spaces inside of them to display / exhibit, are also designed in time, and through this process they also design /influence a context in which they work. The aim of the course is to understand and critically engage with some of the processes, and to find a ways how to communicate the crucial questions and answers without resorting to only showcasing the archive, as the task of the course is to understand the past in order to think the future.