In February 2014, Samra Šabanovic strolled along Schlossplatz, Berlin. Unknowingly, she was being exposed on a photographic plane. Two years later, Samra saw a photograph by Michael Wesely at an exhibition in Sarajevo. The photograph, titled ‘Humboldt-Forum, Berlin’, is a one-year-and-a-half exposure taken from 26.01.2014 to 19.06.2015. While Samra and Sheung were strolling around Berlin on a field trip in early 2018, Samra nonchalantly mentioned that she was once in a photograph but he would not see her.
‘I was there but you didn’t see me’ is a series of research-based public interventions on photographic images curated by Samra Šabanović and Sheung Yiu. These interventions use images as starting points of inquiry about their indisputable impacts in philosophy, literature, history, technology, science and visual culture. Through prolonged looking and peripheral vision, the duo revisits images (or the lack of them) and situates them in new discourses that extend beyond visual arts. This involves doing double-takes on images seriously and regularly, looking intensely at and around photographs to rediscover ‘what was there’ and ‘what was not seen’ at first glance.
Images are real. Images we choose to make (or not to make) incite real changes. Far from merely representations, Images are event itself. The interventions engage images to have a dialogue with the public audience, to speak about their desires and the secrets they hide. In the age when human spend more time making pictures than looking at them, the interventions serve as a reminder that images contain more stories about human society than they can visualize. The processes behind the pictorial plane - the way images are composed, produced, presented, circulated, exploited, archived and discarded - reveals a lot about the choices we made.
These interventions are generally staged in public spaces. Transitional spaces such as bus stops and elevators encourage prolonged looking. Each intervention usually features one visual image, including but not limited to photography. Each photographic image is accompanied by a curatorial text, situating the images in new discourses.