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Inside the Fragment – VIVA 2018

Inside the Fragment

Event Details

  • From: April 7, 2017
  • To: May 21, 2017
  • Starting at: 12:00 AM
  • Finishing at: 09:00 PM

Curator: Patrick J. Fenech

Artists: Nigel Baldacchino, Aidan Celeste, Alexandra Pace, Pauline Wallerich, Sara Belleau, Karen Stuke

Friday 7th April till Sunday 28th May

Space A, St James Cavalier, Valletta

 Following the birth of Sophie Kahn (the first digital image of a newborn on a smartphone), the final curtain came down on traditional editorial photography as a means to earn a living. The digital revolution has impacted in ways previously unimaginable as photography became truly democratised; which would arguably make its future pretty volatile. Many predicted the end of photography, but the application of digital technology has opened up numerous debates not only about photography’s future, but also about its past and present.

This new technology led to a quiet but decisive shift in the realms of photography; quite similar to the shift in painting when  photography helped to shape art in the late twentieth century. This is an exciting time for photography as the art world embraces the photograph as never before. Few realised how digital capture or postproduction would impact independent and fine art photography, to the extent that it has now become the medium of choice for many as contemporary art has become increasingly photographic.

As Susan Bright, writer, lecturer, and a former curator at the National Portrait Gallery in London, remarked, “artists have taken the criticisms, or ignored them altogether, and used photography to their own advantage to create work that smashes through definitions of what art is and what it is not.”

‘Inside the Fragment’ does not distinguish between terms such as ‘art-photography’ and ‘artists using photography’. Instead it investigates the continuing evolvement of the ecosystem of image making, where individual photographers continue to thrive independently and do not require the validation of museums and art galleries; it examines works that are interesting, regardless of who made them. The works selected for this exhibition give a sense of the spectrum of motivations and expressions that currently exist in the field.

The title of this collective, coined from an essay by Roland Barthes, embraces works of photography practice by six photographers (Maltese and International talent), in which the play of meaning escapes language and opens up to infinity; where the ‘third meaning’ is obtuse and exceeds signification. As Barthes intended, the third meaning has fruitful implications for his interest in semiotic liberation and open textuality.

Therefore, the photographs in this exhibition take us away from reality into the realm of fantasy, an area which at first seems at odds with a seemingly objective and descriptive medium such as the photographic camera. The German critic Walter Benjamin, in the most influential piece of writing of the 1930s, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, whilst addressing the nature of photography, talks of the ‘optical unconscious’ and the ability of photography to open up spaces; things that had never been consciously seen.

It is precisely this exegesis that this show proposes to the festival’s audience; looking for the diverse meanings hidden underneath the layers of the photographic pigment. It proposes to consider the surface of the print similar to that of the sea and invites the viewer to jump in and immerse in a new world, kind of a topographic ocean laded with new meaning; the accentuation within the fragment.

Patrick J Fenech


1 On June 11, 1997, Philippe Kahn instantly shared the first pictures from the maternity ward where his daughter Sophie was born in Santa Cruz, California. He wirelessly transmitted his cell phone’s pictures to more than 2,000 family, friends and associates around the world. Kahn’s wireless sharing software and camera integrated into his cell phone augured the birth of instant visual communications. Kahn’s cell phone transmission is the first known publicly shared picture via a cell phone.
2 In his essay The Third Meaning, Roland Barthes believes that the film-still has the capacity to extract the whole diegesis of a film. Barthes cites Eisenstein’’ thoughts about the film-still offering us “inside the fragment” as the basic centre of gravity.