Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kat Fisher submits Joan Fontcuberta #4

Joan Fontcuberta is a Catalan photographer who has been working for almost forty years. Needless to say he has a very large body of work to explore. But one thing that has remained constant throughout his entire career is his concept. Fontcuberta's photography is, at it's heart, about photography. His images use all of photography's tricks to make us believe things that are not true. The basic idea is to make people realize that photography is not truth. To take photos and technology and the media (all things which tell us a photograph is true) and make a joke.
Sputnik, one of Fontcuberta's better known works, is a book about a cosmonaut erased from history by the government. Ivan Istochnikov crewed the Soyuz 2 with his dog Kloka, they both vanished after a routine space walk. When the crew of the Soyuz 3 searched the craft, they found only a note in an empty vodka bottle. Because he was a failure, Istochnikov was erased from history by the Soviet government. However, the Sputnik Foundation recovered photos and videos from his lifetime. An exhibition about Soyuz 2 and Istochnikov traveled to several countries. The story was even picked up by a well regarded newspaper.
The reality is that Soyuz 2 did exist, but as an unmanned craft; Ivan Istochnikov, his photos, videos where all created by and played Fontcuberta himself. Even the Sputnik Foundation was a fictitious organization Fontcuberta created.

I had the great pleasure of hearing Fontcuberta speak at the 2014 SPE conference in Baltimore. He takes a very good attitude towards his work. He thinks all of it is very funny, and I quite agree. Not only does he provide us with a good mystery and joke, but he makes us question authority. Museums have played along and presented his works as truth, and it is impossible to tell what is real and what isn't. Fontcuberta does a great service by creating a new sense of doubt and curiosity. Even for photographers. 

Ivan Istochnikov

Ivan Istochnikov

Joan Fontcuberta

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