What is Fotoaktion?
Gallery 3 Gallery
by Perry Vasquez
When I lived in San Francisco during the 1980s, my friend Doris
"Boris" Berman staged Fotoaktions in New York,
San Francisco and other locations.
I used to tag along and carry the bag of props she'd bring for
people to pose with.
Doris is from Austria and I always thought there was something
radical about her approach to any form of artmaking. I find Fotoaktion,
with its focus on audience participation, most engaging.
The idea of Fotoaktion is firmly rooted in an approach to art
that promises a kind of utopian outcome if the wall between artist
and audience can somehow be overcome.
Fotoaktion is a whole situation
A camera stands on a tripod pointing at a wall or backdrop. A long
air release cable is attached to the camera.
The participant in a Fotoaktion holds the air release and takes
the picture. He or she is in control of the action and decides when
the moment is right to freeze time.
The person otherwise known as the photographer concedes control
of the camera ( that still leaves him or her in control of the lighting,
film exposure, backdrop and props). During Fotoaktion, the photographer's
only role is to advance the frame and change the film.
Fotoaktions can happen anywhere. They have happened in garages,
galleries, museums, high rise buildings, bedrooms, walk-in refridgerators
and many other places.
Fotoaktion is interactive photo experience
The situation becomes interactive when the unattended camera and
empty "stage" incite bystanders to act who have an interest
in recreating self-portraiture as public performance.
It has been suggested that a sense of horror vacui [horror
of a vacuum] may also compel some participants to step in front
of the camera and click the shutter.
Fotoaktion as research
It is often said the presence of a camera changes behavior.
Fotoaktion documents this change as a social activity.
Fotoaktion exposes brief moments (in space and time) in the lives
of homo sapiens as they adapt themselves to what they are
and what they are not while standing in front of the camera.
by Perry Vasquez