Series: Symposium on Photography

1979–97, 2018

The Symposium on Photography was a discursive event series organized by the Forum Stadtpark that took place within the framework of steirischer herbst starting in 1979. As of 1976, the Forum Stadtpark had had a separate photography department under the direction of the photographer Manfred Willmann and Christine Frisinghelli, who was later the artistic director of the festival and the editor-in-chief of the magazine Camera Austria for many years.

The Symposium on Photography was based on the model of the Literature Symposium—also organized by the Forum Stadtpark—with the goal of providing insight into the history and theory of photography. It aimed to discuss questions regarding the medium’s cultural, artistic, and social modes of action within the context of contemporary theory.

As of 1985, the symposium took place each year with one topic that was chosen independently of the overarching theme of steirischer herbst; starting in 1989, Christine Frisinghelli changed the focus to reflect on connections with media theory against the backdrop of a general sociopolitical examination of photography. A good example is the symposium of 1994, titled The Archive, which explored photography as a means of institutionalizing control and power, of criminalizing, and of measuring and administrating the body.

The contributions to the symposium were published each year in the magazine Camera Austria, which was established in 1980 in the surroundings of the photography department at the Forum Stadtpark. Over the years the symposium brought various artists and theorists to Graz. Highlights were Joseph Kosuth and Lee Friedlander as participants in the first symposium; Bernhard J. Blume and Helmut Newton in 1985; Mary Kelly, Jeff Koons, and Jo Spence in 1991; and Nobuyoshi Araki in 1992, with his first exhibition and publication outside of Japan.

The Symposium on Photography was established during the general institutionalization of photography and was linked to already existing formats in steirischer herbst. Due to fundamental restructuring of the Forum Stadtpark in 1995, the photography department was closed. It moved out of the rooms of the Stadtpark and became an independent association in 1997. The theoretical examination of the medium of photography was shifted more and more to the magazine Camera Austria, which is why the symposium no longer took place after 1997. In 2018 it was revived within the framework of the festival for a twenty-first edition on the topic of Die Gewalt der Bilder (The Power of Pictures).

Further Reading

Martin Behr and Martin Gasser, “Aufbruch in die Selbstverständlichkeit: Fotografie und Film im steirischen herbst,” in herbstbuch: 1968–2017, ed. Martin Behr et al. (Vienna: Styria, 2017), pp. 310‒19.

Kerstin Braun, “Fotografie,” in Forum Stadtpark: Die Grazer Avantgarde von 1960 bis heute, ed. Christine Rigler (Vienna: Böhlau, 2002), pp. 222–30.

Christine Frisinghelli, “Referat Fotografie—Forum Stadtpark,” in Styrian Window: Bildende Kunst in der Steiermark, 1970–1995, ed. Christa Steinle and Alexandra Foitl (Graz: Droschl, 1996), pp. 260‒67.