Give Body to the Future

The traditional stereotype of the photographer waiting, choosing and recording a visual moment has been left behind by contemporary photography. Contemporary photography, instead of entering into the art checklist alongside painting, installation and performance, has turned itself into a multi-functioned platform open to all the art mediums which conjunct all the art forms and keeps bringing out new meanings. Since the 1960s and 1970s, when the collaboration with conceptual and performance artists involved photography in the contemporary art practice, it at the same time provided art photography an ambiguous identity and an experimental future.

Text by Liu Ying, photo courtesy of OPAS

¡ª¡ªOPAS, a photo art school traveling the world, an art community get together poet, philosopher, dancer, film maker and artists from all kinds of art practices¡­ Is it a shape of art education or a creative art idea?

Monica Emilie, one of the most experimental dance & performance artists in Norway, is demonstrating for students of OPAS (Oslo Photo Art School) with her performance on how to communicate with space via body language. This performance comes from Past Is Simulation,with another name ¡°The Lady of the sea vs. Nora, And Other Stories Of the Society ¡±, is inspired by the writings of Henrik Ibsen, Susan Sontag, and Elfriede Jelinek. The course she directs- On Body and Context -aims to sharpen the students' perception and the awareness of differences between live performance and the projected being.

The traditional stereotype of the photographer waiting, choosing and recording a visual moment has been left behind by contemporary photography. Contemporary photography, instead of entering into the art checklist alongside painting, installation and performance, has turned itself into a multi-functioned platform open to all the art mediums which conjunct all the art forms and keeps bringing out new meanings. As for Monica, a dance & performance artist, the collaboration with photo artists has always been an important aspect in her creation. ¡°The photographs of my performance is produced as powerful imagery that also function independently as HerStay photography in addition to documenting an event,¡± Monica said, ¡°and with the students of photo art I often get a fresh feeling and a fresh brain,¡± which makes her even more creative.

Since the 1960s and 1970s, when the collaboration with conceptual & performance artists involved photography into the contemporary art practice, it at the same time provided art photography an ambiguous identity and an experimental future. In 1994 when OPAS was founded, the art circle in Norway hasn't seen photography as an art, ¡°this is why I turned my painting school into a photo school,¡± said OPAS's founder Emil Fedida. OPAS was the only photo art school at that time. As a painting artist himself, Fedida was inspired by the experimental new enterprise and laid aside his brushes, ¡°but I don't think I stopped my art creation, I have being doing it all the time, my project is my school education and everything I lead my student to do.¡±

Emil Fedida created the new school OPAS a land of examining the creativity of photo medium. In the teacher list from the beginning there has experimental conceptual artists in Scandinavia, dancer /performancer, poet/philosopher, filmmaker and musician, in addition to photographers and painters. Anna Brag, a conceptual artist from Sweden, contributed her art thought to the school: ¡°For me it is not really a big difference what the main category is the students are studying, stage-design, photography or what ever, as long as they are working with ideas that are about to be expressed.¡± ¡°I teach how to make an idea clear and how to put it into real life,¡± said Anna, she describes this process as ¡°Gestaltning¡±, that means, ¡°to give body to a thought or an idea¡±, ¡°my opinion is this body could be anything, even for a photographer.¡±

Just as Anna always described, ¡°The art scene functions as a platform, where different disciplines can meet and be joined together, maybe even within the same piece of art¡±, after receiving basic photographic skill training and art history knowledge, the students will work with artists from different fields in OPAS workshop. Terje Dragseth, Norwegian poet & filmmaker, was the first poet has been invited by the workshop. In the one-month workshop the students created photo works according to Terje's poems, while Terje came to the school to discuss his poems with them and screen his film work. Schoolmaster Emil was the host of this workshop: ¡°I tried to experiment with how the texts get a new life within a two dimension visual expression without losing the sense of power¡­with space, light, human body or any other visual element.¡±

Lars Svendsen, philosophy author and professor at the University of Bergen, is a frequenter of OPAS. Besides teaching and writing, Lars has a band and art team to produce music and conceptual installation. In 2008, he gave a series of lectures to an OPAS project on fear. The lectures are from his new book The Philosophy of Fear, which delves into science, politics, sociology and literature to explore the nature of fear. After the lectures, the students responded to Lars's research with their products of photography. Christina's work explores this subject psychologically with a series of body segments been watched through peephole, while her fellow Ingrid probed into the social reason of fear in a way of a staged ¡®tableau'. Whatever method is allowed to take in visualizing an intention, in OPAS's workshop.

The free spirit of photography comes from its participation in all kinds of research activities in modern society; and its affinity with literature, drama, film as well as painting allow it to build up new context and find new working terrain from them. ¡°Taking film shooting as example, it can be seen as making 24 photos per second,¡± said Masha Godovannay, a film artist from St. Petersburg, who has directed an OPAS workshop in St. Petersburg with her partner Yevgeniy Yufit. In St. Petersburg they taught the students how to DIY a short film, means the whole process from planning the script to developing the film. Masha says, ¡°But the Concept of a film frame and composition are a bit different from those of photography, and knowledge of usage of both media could be helpful for a future photographer¡±, ¡°film introduces a lot of freedom of expression and experiment, plus, the process (lighting set-up, working with actors, organizing a shooting, etc) are worth knowing¡­¡±

OPAS's overseas workshop usually collaborates with local art studios, academies and artists from around the world, has left its footmarks in Asia, Africa, South America and USA besides Europe, is like an art carriage traveling on the globe. Chinese artist Lin'Yilin has directed OPAS workshops twice, once in Oslo, Norway, and another in Guangzhou, China. Taking the invitation of OPAS workshop because of curiosity at the beginning, Lin'Yilin admitted: ¡°I never taught foreign students before, I wanted to have an experiment to see what would happen.¡± Noticed most of the students hadn't had an art experience before; Lin demonstrated his work process for them. ¡°Making work with foreigners is a stimulation to both the students and me,¡± said Lin, ¡°what impressed me most is the introduction of personal experience is like ¡®walking forward in the darkness', while in contact with young western students; if each time the workshop is held in a different place, you never know what you will see next, what an amazing experience it is!¡±

Although work with different artists, many of OPAS overseas products are documentary photography. The young students have to ¡°equip their head¡± with knowledge of the destination 2 or 3 months before; however, lots of problems will come out when they arrive. Sometimes the shooting is accompanied with danger. Eric King, graduated from OPAS last year, made his Pueblos series in the workshop of New Mexico, USA. Pueblos are small towns on the Indian reservations located in the Southwestern United States. ¡°I tried to sense, and show, how the Native Americans in this part of the US live today. But it became difficult, because almost every Pueblo forbid either my camera or me. The reason for this is still unclear. What is certain though is that their situation is one that society does not want to address.¡± however, Eric completed this project, ¡°I chose to overexpose all the pictures, giving the deadly bright and hostile environment the never ending sun gives to the area.¡±

The history of an individual is getting a wider context, in a day the globe is becoming smaller. ¡°The artist of the future should have the global questions as their own¡±, said the schoolmaster Emil Fedida.

"Give body to the future" OPAS - Youth Vision Magazine 2008
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OPAS. workshop under Lin Yilin in Guangzhou China 2006.
OPAS workshop under Lin Yilin in Oslo 2005















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