UNFIXED. Photography and Postcolonial Perspectives in Contemporary Art

Photography’s attraction as a medium,its historical connection to the production and fixation of identity and the urgency of debates over migration, globalization, national identity, cultureand heritage have inspired the publication UNFIXED: Photography, Postcolonial Perspectives andContemporary Art.Edited and compliled by Sara Blokland and Asmara Pelupessy, UNFIXED examines photography in postcolonial perspective through the diverse critical positions of an international group of writers, artists and scholars working within contemporary art, photography and cultural analysis. The publication is the finishing work of a multiplatform project that included an artist residency, exhibition, workshop and symposium in 2010. As a whole, UNFIXED engaged topics of cultural identity and history together with strategies of artistic research, photo theory and contemporary practices around making, using, studying and writing about photographs.As an instrument of colonialism, photography has contributed to the construction and dissemination of the cultural or racial Other as essentially and fundamentally different—fixed within difference. Currently however, photography is understood to produce truths, as opposed to simply capturing them. Photographs are no longer only seen as representations, but as elements of complex visual discourses in postcolonial debate. The artworks and debates presented in UNFIXED reflect a movement towards conceptualism, multivocality and subjective agency, which has positioned photography beyond positivist notions of its ability to document reality or bear a single meaning. Through this engagement with present practice and theory, the book adds a critical layer to the history of photography.roduced especially for this publication, UNFIXED presents new voices and visions in the form of nine visual and textual essays. These essays take unique stands towards photography and its history through an unconventional range of approaches and styles. Together with documentation of the different stages of the project,the essays explore topics such as the migration and circulation of photography, vernacular photography, archives, memory, diaspora, self-representation, appropriation, visual sovereignty, exoticism and cultural protocol.



Investigating how photography can be ‘unfixed’ through contemporary conceptual, theoretical and visual approaches, UNFIXED presents new critical perspectives on photography in relation to the cultural conditions of postcolonialism.With contributions by: Kobena Mercer (1960 UK), Keith Piper (1960 UK), Otobong Nkanga (1974 NG/FR), Hank Willis Thomas (1976 US), Charif Benhelima (1967 BE), Naro Snackey (1980 NL), Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (1954 US), Andrea Stultiens (1974 NL), Pamela Pattynama (1958 NL), Yamini Nayar (1975 US), Sandim Mendes (1986 NL), Habda Rashid (1971 UK), Terry Kurgan (ZA), Rattana Vandy (1980 KH), Lizza May David (1975 DE), Natalie Robertson (1962 NZ), Kaddu Wasswa John (1933 UG), Arthur Conrad Kisitu (1975 UG), Quinsy Gario (1984 CU/SM), Murtaza Vali (1974 IN), Asmara Pelupessy (1981 US/NL), Sara Blokland (1969 NL)

Sara Blokland Asmara Pelupessy [eds]
Graphic design: Yvonne van Versendaal
ISBN 978-94-90322-29-8 2012


UNFIXED Projects began with a interest that Asmara Pelupessy and I  shared ( during our studies at the Leiden University)  in photography’s relationship to culture and heritage, characterized by some key similarities and differences in our own backgrounds. Both of us trace parts of our ancestry to former colonies, are children of migrants to the ‘West’ and identify with a juxtaposition of heritages, cultures, images and histories. However, the Dutch versus United States perspectives, language and sensitivities around culture and representation consistently came to the foreground in our meetings. Gradually these critical differences in the ways race, multiculturalism and cultural identity are constructed in Europe and the US began to reveal themselves as productive opportunities to develop broader and more flexible understandings about these issues. This unfixed view was also notable in contemporary artworks we were inspired by visually and intellectually. Our exchange and exploration of contemporary art and postcolonial, cultural and photographic theory continued and led to the development of the project UNFIXED.  It included an exhibition, symposium, workshop, artist commission-residency in 2010  and a publication 2012.