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Nomadic Camera: revisiting a workshop on photography and displacement at gd:c

sophie eisenried

Figure 1: Erich Stenger, Die Geschichte der Kleinbildkamera bis zur Leica, (Wetzlar: Umschau Verlag, 1949), 16.[1]

  From 13 June to 15 June 2023, a hybrid international workshop bearing the title Nomadic Camera. Photography, Displacement and Dis:connectivities took place at the Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect in cooperation with the Brandenburg Centre for Media Studies (ZeM) Potsdam. Nomadic Camera was dedicated to processes of migration, exile and flight and their visualisation, perception and dissemination through photography. The workshop explored the technical, medial and aesthetic relationship between photography and contemporary migration, historical exile and flight as a central discursive setting in which specific forms of mobility are negotiated from the mid-19th century to the present. The interdisciplinary workshop was organised by Burcu Dogramaci (Munich), Jens Jäger (Cologne), Winfried Gerling (Potsdam) and Birgit Mersmann (Bonn). The workshop kicked off with the gd:c annual lecture given by T. J. Demos (Santa Cruz) on the topic of Weaponized Environments. From the Migrant Image to the Media of Causes.

Annual lecture, 13 June 2023

In his lecture, T. J. Demos talked about the dynamics and aesthetics of migratory images and probed the representational regimes of refugees. He described the mobility of images of migration and problematised the migrant as a representational subject. He noted that images of migration became mobile screens onto which all kinds of content can be projected by liberal and right-wing media alike. Demos concluded that such projection is driving the rise of epistemic inaccuracies in images and their lack of documentary potential, which themselves are due to visually simplifying image regimes and resulting political interests. He described this development as a photography of faces, whereby subjects are reduced to their physiognomy. As a result, migrants have been dramaturgically and racially limited to their stories (of flight), and no critical reporting takes place. Demos then proposed a shift from a photography of faces to a photography of causes, asking what aesthetics and image regimes were necessary to legitimise this shift. For him, the answer lies in linking the concept of figure with that of ground, not considering environments as neutral contexts but rather asking how images and subjects are connected. He proposed forensic research as well as politically comprehensive analyses to paint a clear picture of political and economic antagonisms and to show networks of power by challenging racialised images in media.

Figure 2: Annette Vowinckel introducing Noemi Quagliati (photo by the author).

14 June 2023

Nomadic Camera began with processes of migration and flight after 2015 and their representation, perception and dissemination through photography. The participants examined the relationship between photography and contemporary migration in technology, media and aesthetics as well as historical exile and flight as central discursive settings. Reflections on creating places and belonging, ruptures between life and work in the past and present, experiences of loss and challenges of beginning were prominent topics. As a concept, nomadic camera focuses on:  
  • how dislocations relate to the technical development of photography as a mobile medium;
  • how camera technologies presuppose and influence the visual formulation of experiences of exile, migration and flight;
  • what changes in the aesthetics and style, methods and practices of photography imply for temporary mobility, geographical displacement and resettlement.
  The first panel was dedicated to the topic of techniques and technologies. Beyond discussing the camera as an artificial object, the participants also considered how perspectives of shooting and their results have changed concepts of photography. Svea Bräunert (Potsdam) connected techniques and technologies of nomadic cameras to the fact that the 21st century is hardly imaginable without accounting for the digital. For her, ‘the digital’ refers to migrants’ (as she referred to them) use of smartphones to plan their escape routes and stay in touch with their social networks as well as to the virtual fortification of borders through surveillance, biometrics and other technologies. She described migrant aesthetics as a ‘moving stream’, in which movement is central in determining the connection between the digital and migration. She concluded that films can no longer be clearly distinguished from photographs. While films have slowed, now containing abstract-looking still images, photography has become a stream always consisting of multiple images. As well as exemplifying what Nathan Jurgenson described as ‘social photos’,[2] the latter also defines smartphone photography, where one image is synthesised from many shots and motion is routinely added. Florian Krautkrämer (Lucerne) took a different tack, asking what dangers and responsibilities participatory techniques of filmmaking entail in the context of flight and migration. He pointed out that the participatory often makes use of the pain, fear and worries of others. The question of who films what for whom arose. Referring to, Wu Wenuang's China Village Self-Governance Film Project, which captures the public and political life of Chinese villages through the lens of their inhabitants, Krautkrämer emphasised that it is important to distinguish between the handed-over and the given camera. The handed-over camera reduces people with specific goals to human tripods. With the given camera, on the other hand, not everything is predetermined; the nature of the camera is important to the outcome. Although no political conflicts can be solved by the given camera, the filmed person can receive a hearing and attention. Thus, Florian Krautkrämer claims that the given camera is more politically open. The second panel was dedicated to bodies, agents and performativity. The discussion focused on the importance of the context of images/photographs and drew attention to the performative character of photography and a theorisation of the term agency. Burcu Dogramaci asked how the concept of the performative relates to migrant photography. Lara Bourdin (Montreal) addressed that question by talking about Notícias de América, a performance by Paulo Nazareth. The Afro-indigenous Brazilian artist pictured himself alone and together with anonymous people holding a cardboard sign. One of the signs, for example, bore the inscription: ‘I am not migrating to the USA’. The surrounding elements, however, suggested otherwise. With his simple clothes and dirty feet, Nazareth recalled the stereotypical figure of the *Latin American migrant* that circulates in Western documentary photography.[3] By developing an imaginary migration story, a re-enactment of real migration stories of people and bodies took place, whereby the performance is a direct, political intervention that exposes forms and racialising processes of photojournalism. Evelyn Runge (Cologne) took a step back from the performative and asked about agency. She examined the ethics and agency of digital images and photojournalistic experiences with the help of the actor-network-theory.[4] She found that ethics and agency are strongly intertwined and asked whether the nomadic digital represents the new ‘normal’. She attested to the participatory nature of the digital image through mechanisms such as reposting on social media and describes this process as nomadic. Afterwards, T. J. Demos asked whether the term nomadic is not inflationary and whether the nomadic is falsely equated with precarity and migration more generally.

Figure 3: The workshop participants enjoyed an evening viewing at the Arena Cinema in Munich (photo by the author)


15 June 2023

At the beginning of the third panel, devoted to media narrations and narratives, Birgit Mersmann pointed out that photo stories contribute to the narrative of migration and that, with the advent of new media and the resulting storytelling possibilities, narratives of migration have undergone a techno-social change. She probed the connections between media historiography, the nomadic camera and new narratives photography is producing. She noted that means of displacing and interrupting narratives can be analysed and distinguished in photographs. Anna Messner (Düsseldorf) added that there is a contradiction between what is seen/displayed and the actual event, referring to how objects can oscillate between visibility and invisibility — appearing, disappearing then reappearing — depending on the context in which media like photo albums are viewed. Subsequently, Ainslie Murray (Sydney) discussed narrative interruptions in her own art project called Registry of Itinerant Architectures — a dynamic online registry of wild, mobile, temporary and inventive forms of architecture associated with contemporary nomadic life. She talked about how her project began, about her walk through the wilderness in central Australia on the Larapinta trail from May to October 2022 during the Covid-19 pandemic. She referred to her preparations, initially hiking in a group and then deciding to continue her journey alone. The fears and worries that repeatedly interrupted her journey were captured through artistic/photographic methods in her art project. But besides creating images of interruptions, the images show improvised scenes of place-making and offer insights into the intense physical and psychological dimensions of mobility, characterised by risk, repetition, interruptions and failure where the landscape played an important role, as in the search for shade. The fourth panel dealt with circulation, archive and memory. Jens Jäger asked what and how we think about the term circulation and what forms of knowledge production play a role. He suggested the archive as a place where knowledge is stored and ascribes it to a tradition of reliving biography. Memory is the constant movement of experience. The archive also shapes ideas about and memories of migration and is therefore significant to nomadic cameras. Helene Roth (Munich) reflected on the archive by discussing her analyses in the ERC project Relocating Modernism: Global Metropolises, Modern Art and Exile (METROMOD). In recent years, the team has developed an interactive digital archive of emigrant artists in the six METROMOD cities of Bombay, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London, New York and Shanghai. The archive not only contains archive entries, but also locates home and work addresses on city maps. The archive also provides important research-based insights. Roth investigated photographers who emigrated to New York in the 1930s and 40s, asking who inscribed themselves in the city's history and how. How are the emigrant photographers (in)visible on the city map? In what contact zones, networks and specific neighbourhoods did they work and live in New York? How were transcultural networks between the METROMOD cities created by migration movements? Roth described the challenges of handling of fragmentary information, which in turn is connected to media like photography. However, the digital archive lends itself to visualising fragmentary and nomadic knowledge through, for example, maps. Afterwards, Zeynep Gürsel (New Brunswick) mentioned that every archive contains certain temporalities. She looked at the effects of the ghostly presence of photographs in an archive of the Ottoman Empire, from which those photographed and captured had left the country without a chance to return. Zeynep Gürsel traces the circulation of 393 individuals and photographs to examine mobility, nationality, archives and the construction of individual and collective memories. She found that each image contains two temporalities: that of the Armenian past and the future of the homeland to-be. Elizabeth Edwards (Leicester) contextualised thoughts on memories with a historiographical intervention on the archive. She used Zygmunt Bauman’s term liquid times, which refers to the uncertainties in contemporary society, in which mass migration and the fluid definition of ‘home’ are essential features.[5] She asked how photographs produce strong histories, as she named them, and suggested that this is only possible because of their fluidity, in that their power structures and political and social agency change depending on what one inscribes on the image. However, images are used/understood as witnesses as well as legitimators of existences around which we, as humans, construct our realities, make new connections and thus create a tapestry of history and reality. The final discussion, beyond those sadly not mentioned here, was devoted to defining the term nomadic camera and, more broadly, what the nomadic might be. It quickly became clear that there is no one exclusive definition of nomadism, let alone the nomadic camera. It is much more important, as numerous discussions and lectures have confirmed, to refer to the political in the nomadic, recalling Demos’s lecture about the danger of romanticising the nomadic as boundless travel and thereby overlooking the fact that the less privileged are excluded from this freedom.[6] Hence, it is necessary to recognise and analyse technologies, agents, narratives and archives of nomadic cameras, without forgetting that nomadic does not inevitably mean freedom and that freedom remains a fantasy for many.   [1] Erich Stenger, Die Geschichte der Kleinbildkamera bis zur Leica (Frankfurt am Main: Wetzlar, Leitz, 1949). [2] Nathan Jurgenson, The Social Photo: On Photography and Social (London/New York: Verso, 2019). [3] I refrain from further explaining or exemplifying the stereotype of the *Latin American Migrant* in order to avoid reproducing racist representations. [4] Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). [5] Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000). [6] T.J. Demos, The Migrant Image The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Durham: Duke University Press, 2013).
Bauman, Zygmunt. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000. Demos, T.J. The Migrant Image The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. Jurgenson, Nathan. The Social Photo: On Photography and Social. London/ New York: Verso, 2019. Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Stenger, Erich. Die Geschichte der Kleinbildkamera bis zur Leica. Frankfurt am Main: Wetzlar, Leitz, 1949.  
citation information:
Eisenried, Sophie, 'Nomadic Camera: revisiting a workshop on photography and displacement at gd:c', global dis:connect, 19 September 2023, 2023, https://www.globaldisconnect.org/09/19/nomadic-camera-revisiting-a-workshop-on-photography-and-displacement-at-gdc/.
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13-15 June, Nomadic Camera. Photography, Displacement and Dis:connectivities

Processes of migration and flight after 2015 and their depiction, perception and distribution through photography are the starting point of ‘Nomadic Camera’. We seek to investigate the relationship of photography and contemporary migration in technology, the media and aesthetics in addition to historical exile and flight as the pivotal discursive setting in which specific forms of mobility extending from the mid-19th century to today have been negotiated. The concept adapts the term ‘nomadic’ — a transitory form of existence — beyond static concepts of being and national boundaries (Demos 2017). ‘Nomadism’ refers to a form of mobility that converges with and diverges from other terms, such as ‘travel’, ‘displacement’ and ‘exile’ (Kaplan 1996). At the same time, displacements are intrinsically related to connective and disconnective experiences, including place-making and belonging, ruptures between life and work in the past and present, experiences of loss and challenges of beginnings. ‘Nomadic Camera’ will centre around the following questions: how do dislocations interconnect with the technical evolution of photography as a mobile medium? How do camera technologies presuppose and affect the visual formulation of exile, migration and flight experiences? What modifications in aesthetics and style, methods and practices of photography do temporary mobility, geographical relocation and resettlement imply?  
Organisers: Burcu Dogramaci (Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect, LMU Munich), Winfried Gerling (European Media Studies – University of Applied Sciences Potsdam/University Potsdam and Brandenburg Centre for Media Studies (ZeM), Potsdam), Jens Jäger (University of Cologne) and Birgit Mersmann (University of Bonn)  
13 June 2023 gd:c annual lecture / Keynote ‘Nomadic Camera’: Historisches Kolleg Kaulbachstraße 15 80539 Munich
14/15 June 2023 Workshop ‘Nomadic Camera’: Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect Maria-Theresia-Str. 21 81675 Munich
14 June 2023 Film screening Fati’s Choice: Arena Filmtheater Hans-Sachs-Str. 7 80469 Munich   Please register by 4 June HERE.  
Click HERE to download the programme.   Continue Reading

Mapping the wounds of the world: dis:connectivities of global representation at the 12th Berlin Biennale

ayşe güngör
  The title of this year's Berlin Biennale, Still Present!, reflected its objective to examine the consequences of the collective trauma caused by colonialism, structural violence and, more generally, the crimes of modern capitalism through a current perspective. Kader Attia, curator of the Biennale, and the curatorial team[1] expand on their approach, namely, to make the crimes of colonialism apparent through the agency of art. Repairing this trauma and the ‘wounds accumulated throughout the history of Western modernity’[2] – as Attia refers to it – the reparation process appears as both a question and a tool throughout the works presented in the Biennale. In this context, the Biennale's global artistic scope will be my focus, which connects as well as disconnects through a range of artistic approaches in its curatorial agenda. Throughout the course of the Biennale, the artistic and curatorial decisions were broadened with numerous decolonial perspectives from various regions, pluralising the global representation. Parallel to the ideas of Bilbao, ‘most discourses and narratives that account for the Biennale’s globality rely almost entirely on visibility’,[3] which is reflected in the curatorial agenda of the recent Berlin Biennale in terms of an approach to globalisation that accentuates unseen local issues in various regions. The issue at hand, as Ndikung points out, is:
Where is the local, especially in this postcolonial era and context, in the crafting of the concept of global museum? And this local cannot be simplified but analyzed in its complexity that goes beyond national or racial categories and that takes into consideration historical and geographical entanglements as much as geopolitical and social intricacies.[4]
Entanglements are occasionally emphasised in the framework of the Biennale, which emphasises broadening the perspectives it represents. This framework, which seeks to account for the ‘global’ by combining cases from diverse peripheries, also risks reducing a multifaceted globality to the dichotomies of ‘the West and the rest’ or ‘colonisers vs. colonised’. Recalling the part that situatedness plays in the logic of liberal capitalism, the general intention of global art discourse is to dissolve these dichotomies. As Jacob Birken addresses, the discourse ‘might not solve anything — just make [these dichotomies] easier to swallow’.[5] When examining the Biennale as a larger phenomenon, a pluralising strategy emerges as the prevailing tool to maintain its position in the global art world. Therefore, the Biennale is often taken as a microcosm of the globalisation of the arts. The curatorial approach of the recent Biennale reflects the general tendency to portray the globe, with its objective of interconnecting the stories of many cultural spheres. In this regard, the 2022 Berlin Biennale fits the general narrative of Biennale-making in a transcultural context, since it seeks to present a comprehensive picture of the globe by focusing on the shared meanings of those affected by oppression and violence. The globally interconnected histories reflected in the artworks navigate distinctive modalities of artistic production. Specifically, archival practices and the ‘field of emotions’ that Attia illustrates are a frequent tool artists implement to confront the legacies of colonial racism. Here, a ‘field of emotions’ helps to reclaim our present, which no longer belongs to us since it has been ‘colonized 24/7 by computational governance and capitalism’.[6] Attia proposes that the agency of art provides us with the freedom to be in the present. In a similar vein, the framing of art in this context evokes an artistic manifesto. When it comes to seeing the globe through a range of artistic practices, thinking broadly about these methodologies raises the question of what connects us and disconnects us. To this end, I would like to gain a clearer sense of what Attia means when he refers to ‘the field of emotions’. One could refer to Dewey’s concept of ‘aesthetic emotion’ through the agency of art experience. This principle describes how, as the artist works with their raw materials, they transform the raw feelings into artistic emotions. Based on the premise that there is no fundamental difference between everyday life and art, but simply a difference in the degree of differentiation and integration, aesthetic emotion is therefore well-structured.[7] Since aesthetic experience is made possible by reshaping materials on purpose until a sensitivity to the characteristics of objects can be realised, this process makes it an aesthetic experience rather than simply an experience. Aesthetic experience gives us a chance to engage with our emotions in this artistic playground. These works not only generate a field of emotions, but also produce for the audience a space in which they are able to pause, think and reflect. This space provides the means to identify with the subject at hand and, as a result, engage with it as it's being recognised. For instance, Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi’s work incorporates elements such as a bluescreen, a hospital bed, a boat, an oxygen mask, a portrait, and a fire-resistant plant into an installation that tells multi-layered stories independent of a specific time or place. Using a blend of real and fictitious elements, the film follows a woman as she travels from Vietnam to Thailand and then to Germany in the aftermath of the American war in Vietnam. The elements of the installation metaphorically set the ground for an imaginary journey and enables the audience to identify with the subject and the story in a womb-like setting, symbolised here by the boat and the operating table. Similarly, using natural and synthetic materials like metal, sugar, charcoal and latex, Christine Safatly's paintings and sculptures depart from the artist's personal history and local setting to probe social constructions of gender and other forms of alienation. Using allegorical narration and juxtaposition, her works encourage the viewer to relate to subjects of physiological suffering and everyday experiences with authoritarian regimes in Lebanon and beyond. This allegorical storytelling is not limited to this, in many cases, the emotional field presented invites viewers to think and reflect.
Thuy-Han Nguyen-Chi, THIS UNDREAMT OF SAIL IS WATERED BY THE WHITE WIND OF THE ABYSS, 2022, video installation, mixed media, dimensions variable, research image, Photo by the author

Christine Safatly, PIECE 1, 2019, from the series THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KETCHUP AND RIPE TOMATOES, 2019-20, fabric pierced with nails and pins, Photo by the author
  Archival research and documentary modes of representation also recur throughout the Biennale. Most of archival art's potential is due to its frequent reproductions of alternative historical perspectives, primarily depicting the unrepresented in official histories to challenge power relations and authority. However, archival practices have also attracted criticism for their representation politics and institutional critique. For instance, Hal Foster criticised the lack of critical engagement, ‘representational wholeness,’ and ‘institutional integrity’ in archival art. In his article Archival Impulse, he adds:
The work in question is archival since it not only draws on informal archives but produces them as well and does so in a way that underscores the nature of all archival materials as found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private. Further, it often arranges these materials according to a quasi-archival logic, a matrix of citation and juxtaposition, and presents them in a quasi-archival architecture, a complex of texts and objects.[8]
Artistic approaches to archives cannot be limited to these critical approaches since they also enable alternative forms of representation by challenging the normative historical narratives or reinterpreting them. Archival artistic practices reflect unstructured information that is neither inherently linear nor connected, and they admit a wide variety of formats. Many instances of archival art appear in the Biennale, including the work of Azoulay, who assembled texts and images shot in Berlin right after World War II with some quotations of women who lived in Berlin in 1945. By interspersing these historical documents with her comments, modifications, and substitutions, so she uncovers the existence of these women who were excluded from official historical archives. Similarly, research agency Forensic Architecture's Cloud Studies (2022) investigates how the air we breathe can be weaponised through herbicidal warfare, tear gas, forest fires, oil and gas pollution and bomb attacks from Palestine to Beirut, London to Indonesia, and around the United States–Mexico border.  
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, THE NATURAL HISTORY OF RAPE (detail), 2017/2022, vintage photographs, prints, untaken b/w photographs, books, essay, magazines, drawings, dimensions variable, Photo by the author
Forensic Architecture, CLOUD STUDIES, 2022, 2-channel video installation, colour, sound, 26′08′′, Photo by the author
While these documentary and investigative practices intertwine in many instances, mergers of art and documentation sometimes collapse the separation between the emotional field and documentary practices. Such works often combine political and poetic voices, such as in Exile Is a Hard Job (1983/2022) by Nil Yalter, which involves experimenting with photographs, transcriptions, quotes, and videos to explore lives immigrant women and families from Portugal and Turkey. These practices of documenting, drawing, and collecting involve an open-ended process of tracing and moving with the experience itself, implicating several challenging modalities of artistic production that exist between art and anthropology. Archival modes of representation employ particular narratives to reflect upon historical realities. They, on the other hand, do not leave enough room for interpretation or engagement with the subject and instead present the audience with the narratives that have already been transcribed. After getting involved in a great deal of documentation procedures throughout the Biennale, one may, in the end, realise that they are drowning in an excessive amount of information that might be hard to engage. I believe that the more room they give for the audience to interpret the subject, the more possibilities for connection they generate. This most likely corresponds to the ‘emotional field’ that the curatorial team intended to yield with this selection of works in this context. What can the Biennale accomplish with these practices? What connects and disconnects us globally and interpersonally is rooted in the space provided for viewers to think rather than inundating them with information. Since any dichotomous division does not represent the complexity of the world, such global representation fails to question the narratives that have shaped the world. Given the diversity of the art world, it is difficult to identify a single world centre or global narrative that might include all the forms of transformation.[9]  To achieve a decolonised representation of art, one must refrain from making geographical generalisations when selecting which parts of history are — or are not — included in narratives. Instead of constraining viewers to a certain time and location or overloading them with information while engaging in documentary practices, the space opened by the poetic core of the aesthetic experience transcends both. That space enables the viewer to connect with their thoughts and feelings while experiencing this artistic playground. Mapping colonial wounds would not be reduced to geography but may be opened to the exchanges, circulations, entanglements, conflicts, and disconnections of the global context.   [1] Kader Attia, curator of the 2022 Berlin Biennale, has assembled a five-member team to assist him, including Ana Teixeira Pinto, Đỗ Tường Linh, Marie Helene Pereira, Noam Segal and Rasha Salti. [2] Kader Attia, ‘Introduction’, in 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (11.6. -18.9.2022), Catalogue (Germany, n.d.), 22. [3] Ana Bilbao, ‘From the Global to the Local (and Back)’, Third Text 33, no. 2 (4 March 2019): 179–94. [4] Soh Bejeng Ndikung Bonaventure, In a While Or Two We Will Find the Tone: Essays and Proposals, Curatorial Concepts, and Critiques (Berlin: Archive Books, 2020), 186. [5] Jakob Birken, ‘Spectres of 1989: On Some Misconceptions of the “Globality” in and of Contemporary Art’, in Situating Global Art, ed. Sara Dornhof et al. (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2018), 49. [6] Attia, ‘Introduction’, 34. [7] H. Hohr, ‘Aesthetic Emotion: An Ambiguous Concept in John Dewey’s Aesthetics’, Ethics and Education 5, no. 3 (1 November 2010): 247–61. [8] Hal Foster, ‘An Archival Impulse’, October 110 (2004): 3–22. [9] Christian Morgner, ‘Diversity and (In)Equality in the Global Art World: Global Development and Structure of Field-Configuring Events’, New Global Studies 11, no. 3 (2017): 165–96.
Attia, Kader. ‘Introduction’. In 12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (11.6. -18.9.2022), Catalogue. Germany, n.d. Bilbao, Ana. ‘From the Global to the Local (and Back)’. Third Text 33, no. 2 (4 March 2019): 179–94. Birken, Jakob. ‘Spectres of 1989: On Some Misconceptions of the “Globality” in and of Contemporary Art’. In Situating Global Art, edited by Sara Dornhof, Nanne Buurman, Birgit Hopfener, and Barbara Lutz, 35–52. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2018. Bonaventure, Soh Bejeng Ndikung. In a While Or Two We Will Find the Tone: Essays and Proposals, Curatorial Concepts, and Critiques. Berlin: Archive Books, 2020. Foster, Hal. ‘An Archival Impulse’. October 110 (2004): 3–22. Hohr, H. ‘Aesthetic Emotion: An Ambiguous Concept in John Dewey’s Aesthetics’. Ethics and Education 5, no. 3 (1 November 2010): 247–61. Morgner, Christian. ‘Diversity and (In)Equality in the Global Art World: Global Development and Structure of Field-Configuring Events’. New Global Studies 11, no. 3 (2017): 165–96.  
citation information:
Güngör, Ayşe. ‘Mapping the Wounds of the World: Dis:Connectivities of Global Representation at the 12th Berlin Biennale’, 15 November 2022. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/11/15/mapping-the-wounds-of-the-world-disconnectivities-of-global-representation-at-the-12th-berlin-biennale/?lang=en.
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Nomadic camera: photography, exile and dis:connectivity

burcu dogramaci
  In 1939, 16-year-old Hans Günter Flieg took a final photo in his hometown of Chemnitz, before he and his family emigrated to Brazil due to anti-Semitic persecution. Upon his arrival in São Paulo, he took the first photo of his exile home. Both pictures appear next to each other on a film strip. Here I focus on these photographs and bring together two concepts that are new to photography and exile research: the nomadic camera and dis:connectivity.

Image: Hans Günter Flieg, Last photograph taken in Chemnitz and first photograph in São Paulo, 1939, credit: Hans Gunter Flieg / Instituto Moreira Salles Collection.

  Flieg photographed with an Agfa roll film (Isopan F) suitable for 35mm cameras. He worked with Leica equipment that his parents had purchased in anticipation of his planned emigration to Brazil.[1] Flieg had been taking a photography course with Grete Kaplus at the Berlin Jewish Museum since March 1939. This enabled his family to justify the purchase of cameras for professional reasons and to prepare their son for a career as a photographer and a livelihood abroad.[2] The film strip shows two black-and-white shots: on the left is a view from the window of a street with buildings in the Gründerzeit style. Multi-storey apartment buildings stand on a residential street densely planted with a row of trees. The view of the camera — aimed from one of the upper floors of a building — leads past a residential building; on the left is a broad part with a cloudy sky. Flieg was taking pictures from his parents’ flat, which was located in the Kaßberg district of Chemnitz. Since the turn of the twentieth century, with the industrial boom in the city, the area was considered an upscale and exquisitely built residential district.[3] Flieg’s photo was taken in August 1939. The next photo on the right is dated December 1939 and shows a bright vase of white orchids. Here, too, one of the subjects, the vase, is cropped on the right, standing on a table. Four months separate the two adjacent shots. This film strip is often shown when Flieg’s photographic work is published.[4] Flieg also spoke about this picture in an interview uploaded to the page of the digital exile museum Künste im Exil (Arts in Exile) of the Deutsches Exilarchiv (German Exile Archive) 1933—1945, which itself is a project of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library).[5] The fascination with this negative strip is due to the two photos and the narrow strip between them, which condense an emigration (hi)story. The narrow strip and the four months of time suspended in it both conceal and expose a difficult route that led from Chemnitz to Munich, over the Brenner Pass to Italy and from there by sea to São Paulo. Several thousand kilometres condense just as much on the narrow strip between two photographs as time accumulates on an in-between space. Based on this (arguably enlarged) contact print of the film strip, I offer reflections in two directions. One is about the concept of the nomadic camera. The other is about the adaptation of the term dis:connectivity to photography and exile. With nomadic camera, I refer to the camera and photography as the central medium to visualise cross-border changes of place. Included in the term nomadic are forms of forced or voluntary relocation, i.e. migration, flight, displacement, exile. Etymologically, nomadic derives from the Latin nomas/Greek nomás. Nomás alludes to non-sedentary forms of existence that historically developed in the Old World dry belt — from West Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula to East Asia — of those who spend their lives wandering, adapting to living conditions with scarce resources spread over a wide area.[6] This archaic nomadism of migratory ethnic groups, which persists, has its revenant and related figures in post-industrial societies — in commuters, labour migrants, political refugees, in employees of globally oriented companies, students, global travellers, in artists who are globally present as visiting scholars and exhibitors.[7] With these diverse connotations of nomadism in mind, I would like to refer to Caren Kaplan, who recognises ‘continuities and discontinuities between terms such as “travel”, “displacement” and “location” as well as between the particularized practices and identities of “exile”, “tourist” and “nomad”. All displacements are not the same’.[8] But precisely the often-one-dimensional reception and connotations of these different transitive forms of existence — migration as alienation, travel as experience, nomadism and vagabonding as (artistic) freedom — problematise perceptions of them as sharply delineated possibilities of existence. The point is to focus instead on the intersections that emerge from them and how they catalyse new thoughts and perceptions. Nomads, migrants and travellers are united by change and movement, the potentially temporary instability of their existence, their experience of new spaces, societies and languages. Sometimes, as the history of emigration in the 1930s and 1940s shows, the transitions between tourism and exile were fluid. Examples include transalpine border crossings disguised as ski tours and exhibition and reading tour by artists and writers becoming exile because political circumstances no longer permitted their return.[9] As a concept, the nomadic camera connotes a non-settled and nomadic ‘meta-figure’ or ‘general metaphor’[10] and denotes a transitory state that proceeds from the technical apparatus, the camera, to include the act of photographing, the camera operator(s), the resulting photographs and their circulation as well as the objects photographed. With the accent on the camera, the research interest centres on the complex interconnections of photography, mobility and technology. It extends to touch on the photographic form and aesthetics. Photography can find different languages for forced and voluntary displacements, so the question of a specific pictorial aesthetic, the formal and compositional parameters of the photography of exile, migration and flight, arises. Already in the early days of photography since its introduction in 1839, photographers travelled even with heavy-plate and large-format cameras. Throughout its existence, photography has served as a means of visualising displacements. In 1852, the French writer Victor Hugo went into exile on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, where he composed autobiographical texts as well as drawings and photographs that pictorially recorded his escape.  Hugo’s portraits in the island’s natural environment, taken in cooperation with his son Charles and the journalist Auguste Vaquerie, are perhaps the earliest exile photographs.[11] From Hugo’s exile, widely branching lines extend to current migration, flight and displacement. The 150 years of photographic migration history — or migrant photographic history — is closely connected with technical innovations that can only be traced coarsely here. Camera techniques like the plate camera and the daguerrotype or calotype favoured mainly professional photographers, as these techniques and transporting the large cameras were expensive and time-consuming. The introduction of the Kodak box camera in the late nineteenth century fuelled the market for amateur photography, which burgeoned globally with the miniature 35-mm cameras of the 1920s.[12] Hans Günter Flieg's film strips, the Agfa Isopan F film and the Leica miniature camera indicate photography’s unprecedented mobility in the 1920s and 1930s. Photography with film rolls was a democratic medium of images whose affordability and user-friendly technology made it broadly accessible. In addition, shops sprang up all over the world as service facilities where film had to be deposited for processing, with the negatives and prints to be collected later. Outsourcing the development process promoted the global use of photography by amateurs. Not only was the technology portable, but the photographic prints — the result of the technical process — were also available on the road. Since the massive introduction of miniature cameras in the 1920s at the latest, photography became the technical and artistic medium of migration, exile and flight. Handheld cameras accompanied their owners along their migrations, leaving their homeland either voluntarily and, after 1933, often forcibly. Photographs taken on passages into exile tell of the outward routes and modes of transport.[13] Thus, images created in emigration or reflecting migration phenomena themselves have inherently nomadic qualities. For me, photography is part of a history of migration and mobility. Flieg’s negative strip highlights this in an unusual way, as the movement of the photographer, his camera and the film manifests itself through the photographs in Chemnitz on the left, the narrow strip in the middle and the shot in São Paulo on the right. The localisation in a specific environment as the starting point of the flight is clearly recognisable on the left in the Chemnitz cityscape. São Paulo as the terminus of the escape, meanwhile, is marked by the vase with the white orchids — in Brazil there are about 3,000 species from the Orchidaceae family.[14] The passage itself, as already explained, remains hidden in the dark strip. The negative strip also offers access to, or an adaptation of, the concept of dis:connectivity in the context of global flight movements and their mediatisation in photography. Dis:connectivity overcomes a binary approach and has already been applied in, for example, sociological media theory, to capture digital (dis)connectivity, media consumption and media abstinence.[15] Dis:connectivity is a new approach to global history, which we global dis:connect have already used productively and which focuses neither on interconnectedness nor on deglobalisation exclusively. Rather, as Roland Wenzlhuemer writes, it is about a ‘tension between processes of entanglement and disentanglement’,[16] which means that global connections always contain interruptions, detours and voids, be they transport routes, communication channels, escape routes or capital flows. For exile research, the concept of dis:connectivity can illuminate both the actors (persons) and actants (objects). That is precisely the purpose behind examining Flieg’s photographs, which are connected to each other as successive images on a negative strip. Yet, there is an interstice, a gap between them. Theoretically, two images on 35-mm film could be separated by only a few moments, as it was possible to take up to 36 images in succession with the Leica camera. Flieg, however, took the photographs and put the camera aside, not using it while in transit. Therefore, no photograph exists of this passage into exile, at least not on this film and not with this camera. It can be assumed that he did not want to draw attention to himself, at least towards the beginning of his journey, which led to Italy over the Brenner Pass. On the ship — I sadly don’t know the exact route — no photographs were taken with the Leica either. Absence, the blank space marked in black on the strip, thus stands for a journey that was not visually documented. Absence, as Ulrike Lehmann writes, refers to a former presence and what has now disappeared: ‘The absent presupposes the present. ’[17] But the space in-between also evidences the dis:connective relationship between home and abroad, between the origin and the terminus of the journey that was to separate Flieg almost permanently from the city of Chemnitz and from Germany. He only returned on the occasion of his first solo exhibition in Germany at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz in 2008, almost 70 years after he had emigrated.[18] The film strip can also be understood as a timeline in which the direction runs from left to right, corresponding to the numbering of the images from 10 (Chemnitz) to 11 (São Paulo). Timelines are culturally bound. Where Latin script predominates, they run from left to right (i.e. as one reads), and where Arabic prevails, they are ordered from right to left (again according to the direction of reading). In everyday life, time is perceived as a trajectory that always runs irreversibly in one direction towards a final state.[19] This negative strip, however, also allows for another interpretation, namely time as something that runs from exilein two directions separated by the dividing space. There is a time before exile and a time of exile or post-exile. These times are not characterised by succession, but by the difference and divergence of experiences and of cultural and linguistic spaces. Time and space — the latter as a variable often used for flight, exile and migration — form an important connection. One could equally speak of dis:connective times and dis:connective spaces. Incidentally, Hans Günter Flieg found the film strip with the two photos from Chemnitz and São Paulo among his early photos only many decades later, when he was preparing a retrospective of his works for the Museu da Imagem de do Som in São Paulo in 1981. Through this find, he was able to recall the time of his emigration with temporal distance, thus creating connectivity.     [1] Michael Nungesser, ‘Chemnitz Liegt Bei São Paulo. Der Fotograf Hans Günter Flieg’, ed. Ingrid Mössinger and Katharina Metz, 2008. [2] Agi Straus, Interview mit der Malerin Agi Straus, São Paulo, 15 April 2013, https://kuenste-im-exil.de/KIE/Content/DE/Objekte/flieg-interview.html?cms_x=4&catalog=1; Nungesser, ‘Chemnitz Liegt Bei São Paulo. Der Fotograf Hans Günter Flieg’. [3] Tilo Richter, ed., Der Kassberg. Ein Chemnitzer Lese- Und Bilderbuch (Leipzig: Passage-Verlag, 1996). [4] Ingrid Mössinger and Katharina Metz, eds., in Hans Günter Flieg: Dokumentarfotografie Aus Brasilien (1940-1970) (Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2008), 48–49; Sylvia Asmus, in ......Mehr Vorwärts Als Rückwärts Schauen... (Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2013). [5] Hans Günter Flieg, Interview des Deutschen Exilarchivs 1933 - 1945 mit Hans Günter Flieg : São Paulo, 18.04.2013 / Interview und Bild: Sylvia Asmus und Jochanan Shelliem, 18 April 2013, https://d-nb.info/1059580241. [6] Alfred Hendricks, ‘Menschen unterwegs. Mobilität als Erfolgsstrategie’, in Unterwegs. Nomaden früher und heute, ed. Alfred Hendricks (Gütersloh: Linnemann, 2003), 8–11. [7] Birgit Haehnel, in Regelwerk und Umgestaltung. Nomadistische Denkweisen in der Kunstwahrnehmung nach 1945 (Berlin: Reimer, 2007), 29; T. J. Demos, in The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Verona: Electa, 2017), 18–26. [8] Caren Kaplan, Questions of Travel. Postmodern Discourses of Displacement (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1996). [9] Thomas Oellermann, ‘Wenzel Jaksch Und Die Seliger-Gemeinde’, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 27 November 2021, https://www.fes.de/themenportal-geschichte-kultur-medien-netz/artikelseite/wenzel-jaksch. [10] Peter Gross, ‘Der Nomade’, in Diven, Hacker, Spekulanten. Sozialfiguren der Gegenwart, ed. Stephan Moebius and Markus Schroer (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), 316–25. [11] Denis Canguilhem, ‘En Collaboration Avec Le Soleil. Victor Hugo, Photographies de l’exil (Cat. Exp.), Textes de F. Heilbrun, Q. Bajac, P. Néagu, N. Savy, S. Rouleau, F. Rodari, Paris, Paris-Musées/Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 1998’, n.d., https://journals.openedition.org/etudesphotographiques//200. [12] Todd Gustavson, Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009); Erich Stenger, Die Geschichte Der Kleinbildkamera Bis Zur Leica (Frankfurt am Main, 1949). [13] Burcu Dogramaci, in Fotografieren Und Forschen: Wissenschaftliche Expeditionen Mit Der Kamera Im Türkischen Exil Nach 1933, 1. (Marburg: ‎ Jonas Verlag, 2013). [14] ‘Orchideen S.O.S.’, 20 December 2021, https://brasilienportal.ch/wissen/brasilien-report/kurz-reportagen/orchideen-sos/. [15] Pepita Hesselberth, ‘Discourses on Disconnectivity and the Right to Disconnect’, no. vol. 20, 5 (8 June 2017). [16] Roland Wenzlhuemer, ‘Dis:Konnektivität Und Krise’, 12 November 2020, https://www.blog.cas.uni-muenchen.de/topics/global-worlds/dis-konnektivitaet-und-krise. [17] Ulrike Lehmann, ‘Ästhetik Der Absenz. Ihre Rituale Des Verbergens Und Der Verweigerung. Eine Kunstgeschichtliche Betrachtung’, in Ästhetik Der Absenz. Bilder Zwischen Anwesenheit Und Abwesenheit, ed. Ulrike Lehmann and Peter Weibel (München/Berlin: Klinckhardt & Biermann, 1994), 42–74. [18] Hans Günter Flieg, in Hans Günter Flieg: Dokumentarfotografie Aus Brasilien (1940-1970), ed. Ingrid Mössinger (Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2008), 8. [19] Erhard Keppler, Zeitliches. Vom Umgang mit der Zeit seit der Antike. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Zeitbegriffs (Katlenburg-Lindau: Copernicus, 2007).  
Asmus, Sylvia, and Marlen Eckl, editors, ‘... mehr vorwärts als rückwärts schauen ... ’. Das deutschsprachige Exil in Brasilien 1933-1945 / ‘... olhando mais para frente do que para trás  ... ’. O exílio de língua alemã no Brasil 1933-1945 (Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2013) Demos, T.J. ‘Charting a Course. Exile, Diaspora, Nomads, Refugees. A Genealogy of Art and Migration’, in The Restless Earth, exh. cat. Fondazione La Triennale di Milano. Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan (Verona: Mondadori Electa, 2017), 18-26. Dogramaci, Burcu, Fotografieren und Forschen. Wissenschaftliche Expeditionen mit der Kamera im türkischen Exil nach 1933 (Marburg: Jonas, 2013), 29 and 81 En collaboration avec le soleil. Victor Hugo. Photographies de l’exil, exh. cat. Musée d’Orsay et Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris, 1998 Flieg, Hans Günter. “Interview on 18 April 2013, video, https://kuenste-im-exil.de/KIE/Content/DE/Objekte/flieg-interview.html?cms_x=4&catalog=1, accessed 3.4.2022. Gross, Peter, ‘Der Nomade’, in Diven, Hacker, Spekulanten. Sozialfiguren der Gegenwart, edited by Stephan Moebius and Markus Schroer (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), 316-325. Gustavson, Todd, Camera. A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009). Haehnel, Birgit, Regelwerk und Umgestaltung. Nomadistische Denkweisen in der Kunstwahrnehmung nach 1945 (Berlin: Reimer, 2006) Hans Günter Flieg. Dokumentarfotografie aus Brasilien, edited by Ingrid Mössinger and Katharina Metz, exh. cat. Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz (Bielefeld: Kerber, 2008). Hendricks, Alfred, ‘Menschen unterwegs. Mobilität als Erfolgsstrategie’, in idem, editor, Unterwegs. Nomaden früher und heute (Gütersloh: Siegbert Linnemann, 2003), 8-11. Hesselberth, Pepita, ‘Discourses on Disconnectivity and the Right to Disconnect’, in New Media & Society, vol. 20, no. 5, 2018, 1994–2010. Kaplan, Caren, Questions of Travel. Postmodern Discourses of Displacement (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1996) Keppler, Erhard, Zeitliches. Vom Umgang mit der Zeit seit der Antike. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Zeitbegriffs (Katlenburg-Lindau: Projekte-Verlag Cornelius, 2007). Lehmann, Ulrike, ‘Ästhetik der Absenz. Ihre Rituale des Verbergens und der Verweigerung. Eine kunstgeschichtliche Betrachtung’, in Ästhetik der Absenz. Bilder zwischen Anwesenheit und Abwesenheit, edited by Ulrike Lehmann and Peter Weibel (Munich/Berlin: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1994), 42-74. Nungesser, Michael. “Chemnitz liegt bei São Paulo. Der Fotograf Hans Günter Flieg, in: Hans Günter Flieg. Dokumentarfotografie aus Brasilien, hg. v. Ingrid Mössinger und Katharina Metz, Ausst.-Kat. Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz 2008, S. 10-14 Oellermann, Thomas, ‘Wenzel Jaksch und die Seliger-Gemeinde’, 27.11.2021, https://www.fes.de/themenportal-geschichte-kultur-medien-netz/artikelseite/wenzel-jaksch, accessed 3.4.2022. Richter, Tilo, editor, Der Kaßberg. Ein Chemnitzer Lese- und Bilderbuch (Leipzig: Passage-Verlag, 1996). Stenger, Erich, Die Geschichte der Kleinbildkamera bis zur Leica (Frankfurt/Main: Umschau 1949). Wenzlhuemer, Roland. ‘Dis:konnektivität und Krise’,  CAS LMU Blog, 12 November 2020, https://www.blog.cas.uni-muenchen.de/topics/global-worlds/dis-konnektivitaet-und-krise, accessed 4 April 2022.  
citation information
Dogramaci, Burcu. ‘Nomadic Camera: Photography, Exile and Dis:Connectivity’. Institute Website. Blog, Global Dis:Connect (blog), 8 February 2022. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/08/02/nomadic-camera-photography-exile-and-disconnectivity/?lang=en.
This post has also appeared in issue 1.1 of our in-house journal, static.
Dogramaci, Burcu. ‘Nomadic Camera: Photography, Exile and Dis:Connectivity’. Static. Thoughts and Research from Global Dis:Connect, 2022.
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