Call for Papers Vol. 5, no. 2 - The Master

[ARCHIVE CFP - Published in spring 2020]

Membrana vol 5, no. 2 (The Master) investigates the dynamics of visual domination, visual presence, familiarity and iconicity of images in relation to the figure of the master.

Even before the invention of the camera, the master has always been entwined with its image – in coinage, sculptures, paintings, drawings, and other media – but it seems that photography has both continued and complicated the master-image relation.

As before, a master can stage portraits and public performances to secure domination through a public circulation of its image(s). But photography’s “contribution” to the master-image relation was not merely to enhance the intertwinement of the master with its image. At least since the beginning of the 20th century, it has become apparent that photography can simultaneously capture something else – the unexpected, the unwitting, the excess that eludes control. Moreover, the mass proliferation of image-making in the early 21st century and the changed information and communication ecosystems have made the control of one’s public image a precarious process, dictated to a large extent by an image-generating social apparatus and algorithmic logic.

To a large extent, the age-old dialectic between the master and the servant seems to be flipped on its head – the master being evermore the servant of its own representation, of its most shareable common public visual denominator, be it likable, hated or reviled. Is the master becoming ever more the servant of its own representation? Is this representation being hollowed-out, becoming “merely” an abstract visualisation of power, detached from any of the master’s traits? Have we entered a new era of a master figure without any grandeur or charisma, a master lacking any sign of dignity – a master for which the denomination only holds true in terms of political power, lacking any “grand” visual signs of the historical personas of the past?

What role do photographs play in the creation, strengthening, or subversion of (the images of) the master? Do photographs (un)wittingly legitimize the power, or do they recast power within the wider social network of signs? What is their role in the subject’s compliance with the authority, acceding to the rules of the master? Is domination via visual signs nowadays a necessary condition for social dominance or it is just a side spectacle?

We invite textual and visual contributions that explore the master, domination, and subjugation in the relation to photographs, from contemporary and historical viewpoints, and through (but not limited to) the following perspectives: 

  • authoritarian figures and photography
  • authority, subjugation, domination through photography
  • master-slave dialectics and the image
  • the master, white supremacy, right-wing nationalism and photography
  • the master and author (genius as the master)
  • photographer as a master
  • power, charisma and figures of the master
  • fine-art photography and subversion of figures of the master
  • visual propaganda
  • social media and figures of the master
  • image aesthetics and figures of the master
  • photographic presence as it stabilizes or destabilizes domination
  • celebrity and banality in constructions of power
  • hierarchy, networks, and mastery
  • masters made or undone by photography, post-truth and the master
  • icons and iconicity in constructions and deconstructions of authority
  • the master in relation to photography’s civil contract or democratic promise
  • the master and conditions of excess, abundance, or utopian potential
  • the master and the optical unconscious
  • the master and public spectatorship
  • the master in an ecology of images
  • master-slave dichotomy, computational technologies and photography
  • attracting the master’s attention: photography’s stance in contemporary art practice

More information about the contributions can be found here. Contributions will be published in the English edition – magazine Membrana (ISSN 2463-8501. eISSN: 2712-4894) and/or in the Slovenian edition – magazine Fotografija (ISSN 1408-3566).

Proposals and deadlines

The deadline for contribution proposals (150-word abstracts and/or visuals) is July 27, 2020 (extended to August 10!). The deadline for the finished contributions from accepted proposals is September 21, 2020 (extended to October 5, 2020!) Please send proposals via the online form or contact us directly at editors@membrana.org.