Jörg Brüggemann: Hi Mark, you have just published the book "Hijacked Volume 2 - Australia/Germany" together with Ute Noll and Markus Schaden. Please tell me bit about your personal background and the mayor idea behind the "Hijacked" books.
Mark Pherson: Hijacked is about bringing back some culture (ie. Books) back into the hands of individuals, as opposed to control and control dictated by institutions, governments, corporations, etc. One objective of Hijacked projects is to expose emerging, under represented and quality artists on an equal and democratic platform, in a juxtaposed design.
I was a photography student who graduated through Edith Cowen University in Western Australia, studying under Max Pam, my co-editor for Hijacked Volume 1 – Australia and America. Coincidently, Max Pam has just been awarded a major book prize at Photo Espana 2010. I also studied abroad in The Netherlands and in Scotland. These days I am not taking so many photographs anymore, but instead publishing, reviewing, curating and organizing photographic projects, exhibitions, etc. Which is a large investment in time, money, through research and study. I think now, I would like to reinvest in my own artistic photographic practice, and simplify everything somehow. Maybe there are too many photographers not enough books, perhaps, or too many books, not enough photographers. I’m still finding my way in the photographic world, so I think my career is not clearly defined, its definitely still a work in progress.
Hijacked started in July 2005, as a self-published zine. An independent, limited edition, lo-fi booklet, that featured photography, mixed media, illustration, interviews, graphics, street art and new media. By the time I had completed 10 issues of these black and white, DIY, imprints, I thought it was time to change the aesthetic and the direction and to try to return to a pure photographic depiction and representation. So I moved more towards a high end production, of a traditional coffee table book. Its funny as now there are so many independently produced zines, books and projects which are seriously inspiring, ie. PIY (publish it yourself), “Self Publish Be Happy”, Lay Flay, and Switzerland independent publisher Neives, for example.
The Hijacked concept was about taking back some cultural elements and control into the hands on individuals and away from the power corporations, institutions, commercial entities and governments. Hijacked’s central premise is about cultural exchange, collective ambition and a type of recontextualisation of artists works. It’s a democratic and egalitarian process, which is derived from the artistic freedom of expression and artistic creativity. Hijacked books is about the recontextualisation and juxtaposition of photographic images to synthesize a new meaning, emotion and context.
JB: Why did you choose Germany for the second volume of "Hijacked" and what did you discover when you started looking for potential German photographers? From your point of view, is there something like a young German School of Photography?
MM: Its simple, Germany was the most open, receptive and accessible country. It was the obvious choice. Plus I really had an established network there of friends, associates, contacts. The young German Photography scene that I experienced was very ambitious, active and supportive. I am always looked after well when I travel to Germany, since my visits here since 1999.
Germany also has a strong, well documented photographic history, contemporary scene and audience, which Australia only has in a limited and restricted capacity. It’s part of my DNA, and heritage. My grandmother and mother were both born in Hamburg and I lived in Freiburg and later Berlin. So the relationship between both countries for me is personal and also a natural part of my life. I worked in Germany for several years and had an established network and foundation to work from. I also had a small audience in Germany for Hijacked Volume 1, Australia & America
The most obvious discovery in the context of this project, in looking at German Photographers was that the majority of Photographers were working on large bodies of work, specific thematic series usually from outside their own boarders, beyond German Boarders. Secondly, the majority of photographers are engaging with representations in the real, and within the aesthetics of realism’, something that is more important than the conceptual blah, blah, blah…
I’m sure there is a young German School of Photography, but I’m not someone who would proclaim what exactly defines this young German School of Photography. Giving comparmentalised characteristics to a diverse, expressive and progressive survey of photography is counter productive and a shortfall, to what each individual artist is actually attempting to say through intricate, unique and particular means. Yes, there is a young German School of Photography, and there always will be, and it stems from a strong foundation of German Photography Schools, and a wealth of photographic history. I’m more interested in the new, the next generation, the under represented. The Düsseldörf School and the Andreas Gürsky’s are necessary, and important, as is Madonna for pop music, but there are a plethora of other voices, perspectives, concepts and aesthetics that I am interested in…
Rather than a dominant voice. Its fantastic that Germany has a real photography focus beyond Düsseldorf in Schools like Bremen, Bielefeld, Essen, Leipzig and Oost Kreuz in Berlin. As well as events like The Photography Festivals of F-Stop Leipzig, Darmstad Tage Fur Fotographie, The Kassel Book Forum, Kölns Foto Kina, the list goes on and on. Australia has much less and is obviously a place where photography has a much lower or lesser, cultural value. Australian Photography needs to be cross polinating with the rest of the world, otherwise it was shrivel up and die, and disappear into obscurity.
My idea of a young German School of Photography, is overtly natural, is hyper-theorized and created naturally outside of the institutional structures, and philosophies. Its non quantifiable and a much bigger survey than what is offered in the photography publication – Hijacked 2 – Australia / Germany.
Our book only offers a small sample of what is available in contemporary German Photography. I acknowledge that there are numerous seriously talented photographic artists like Andrea Diefenbach, Mattieus Steffen, Georg Parthen, Jörg Koopmann, and many others whom we just couldn’t physically or financially were able to include in the 412 page book.
JB: Please tell us a bit about the Australia photography scene. Unfortunately there is not a lot you get to hear about Australia photography here in Germany. Is there something that makes it unique or special?
MM: Australian Photography is a caricature of its national identity, natural, ambitious, inquisitive, sometimes provincial and provociquial and introspective. The photography scene is new to me, I have only been engaging with this Australian Photographic environment for about 5 years.
I feel that the scene is still developing and expanding and trying to connect all the important nodes of representation. I don’t think we have the European stigmata associated with combining commercial, fine art and documentary photography. Personally I have tried to erase the boarders, and categorical definitions that exist in photography, in order to create new synapses and ideaologies within the photographic community.
Not much to say really, it ‘s quite fragmented, with small groups and individuals operating independently, with perhaps a slight tendency toward DIY … maybe speak with Anne Marsh about this, from Monash University in Melbourne, or Helen Ennis at the Australian National University, they have diplomas and professorships, I don’t and never will…
I don’t think I’m the right person to answer this question really, I work on the wharf and ain’t to exposed to an expansive amount of photography. It would be better answered by one of the practicing photographers from Australia, or one of the directors of Photography in one of the Unversities, Museums, Art Schools, etc. Uta Daur also writes a very definitive essay in the book, which covers the topic explicitly. As do several other writers in the book. For me the most profound aspect to new Australian photography is… an atypical aesthetic, its non specific identity. It is not a by product of European or American Photographic Culture and has stronger links and similarities with its Asian neighbours
We (Australia) is an island, separated geographically from the rest of the world, so our photography scene is naturally insular. I think the photography scene operates in virtual isolation. So the scene is quite small, and has pockets of activity across the country. Hijacked has been an attempt to merge and connect all these different states and temprements, attitudes in Australia toward photography. As a whole, I would say a few elements or subjectivity similarities are focusing on suburbia, conceptual approaches and aspects of travel journalism. Its difficult to make a
JB: You seem to be a big networker. In a very short time you made contacts with a lot of interesting people from the German photography scene. How did you meet Ute Noll and Markus Schaden and what was the cooperation like?
MM: The co-operation was rad, spontaneously satisfying and an experience I definitely appreciate and will cherish. I’m not a big networker, I just like people and enjoy company of artistic and creative people, those people with open hearts and minds.
I met Ute Noll in Stuttgart when we were presenting Hijacked Volume 1 Australia & America there in 2008 at Fluctuating Images. Nathalie Latham suggested that we meet, so I dropped into her gallery with a friend Jess Scully. She is independent, professional and ambitious so that was a good first meeting. We ate plenty of Schwabian Food, coffee and enjoyed the Stuttgart Summer weather. She was a natural choice to collaborate with, and also suggested to work with Markus. When I launched the first book in 2008 in Berlin with Neunplus, numerous people that I met suggested that if we ever make a book with German Photographers, then Markus Schaden was ‘the man’ to work with… and they were right in retrospect.
I met Markus Schaden at Arles 2009, after we had a couple of long distant telephone conversations about the project before then. I had to make a decision weather to travel to Arles to meet Markus Schaden or to Berlin to meet Blixa Bargeld and so I decided to meet Mr Schaden. So we were able to work together in Köln for 3 days on the editing with Ute Noll after Arles 2009, in a community hall, underneath Markus’s apartment, which was fantastic. Unfortunately Mr Blixa Bargeld was unable to write anything for the publication. The editing, selection and sequencing of the first draft of Hijacked 2, was a much more discussed, thorough, and debated co-operation than say Hijacked Vol1. was with Max Pam.
JB: What are your next plans? Which country will be the next to be "Hijacked"?
MM: I am not sure if much else will come after Hijacked 2, as I have kind of dug myself into an Alice in Wonderland like warren of debt and financial disaster, So this may be it in terms of publications. I think I will look for something a little more stable, in terms of financial return. Currently I am doing a lot of travel for Hijacked 2 Australia / Germany, and work for the National Australian Hijacked Tour, also for book launches in Australia & Europe & USA, and to attend Rhubarb international Photographic Review. So its kind of busy, but I’m barely surviving. I think its time I get a real job.
My next plans are to spend more time with my family. I’m still determining which direction I will try to take as an independent publisher. I would like to work more specifically on monographs and different publications, outside of the Hijacked paradigm, specifically with new Australian Photographic Artists.
But we will wait and see if this is possible.
The next scheduled Hijacked is for 2012, as currently they take about two years to make, is Hijacked 3 – Australia & The United Kingdom. This has mainly become possible through my 2009 & 2010 attendance at Rhubarb, The International Photography Review in Birmingham. I met my co-editor Louise Clements there, (Senior Curator from the Format Frestival, Quad – Derby) and it’s a great platform for photographers, curators, editors, etc.
I am also praying and trying to convince Stefanie Braun from the UK Photographers Gallery to work with us on the book. Sometimes I can be overly persistent. Presently the only other Hijacked combinations that look possible for the future are India because of my friendship and connections with Kapil Das and perhaps with France, because of discussions and conversations with Charles Freger. But you never know what possibilities lay ahead, what opportunities may present themselves in the future.
JB: Thank you for this interview, Mark.
Also watch out for the two upcoming book launches of Hijacked 2 – Australian and German Photography:
Schaden.com, Cologne, Germany
Albertustraße 4, Cologne
September 25, 2010, 7 pm
Klompching Gallery & Dumbo Arts
Festival, New York, USA
111 Front Street, Brooklyn, New York
September 25, 2010, 7 pm