What should we be looking at? The extraordinary number of photographs taken on September 11 made it the most photographed event in history and may have signaled the birth of citizen journalism. However in our impulse to record, we have not formulated new strategies to gain a better understanding of today’s pressing issues of a globalized world.
As traditional print journalism was threatened, and the number of images published online has exploded into the billions (sixty billion on Facebook alone), we have been left with few common sources of news and analysis. There is no longer a “front page” to act as a societal filter through which, we can learn about important events and trends. Even the role that the physical café once played in our communities—the place we went to discuss and digest what’s going on around us — has become fragmented across a myriad of virtual spaces.
Where should we turn for our information? How can we function as a society with so few common reference points? How can we intelligently sort through all the images and information available to us? In terms of photography and visual information, what should we be looking at?
Ten years post-9/11, at a time when we are more overloaded with information than ever but cannot access it in a coherent manner, Aperture will create a visual café for collective social engagement with the question: What Matter’s Now? and turn it into an evolving exhibition space. During a two-week period Aperture will turn itself “inside out,” letting participants engage in the editorial process of weighing questions, ideas, and images, and proposing conceptual and curatorial solutions. Both invited guests and gallery visitors will be asked to participate. The exhibition What Matters Now? Proposals for a New Front Page will combine the crowd sourcing of images and ideas with the curatorial engagement of six experienced individuals, each hosting a table and a conversation within the space, where on corresponding walls each group will present its proposals for the contents of a ‘New Front Page’. Hosts include a variety of visual image specialists: Wafaa Bilal, Melissa Harris, Stephen Mayes, Joel Meyerowitz, Fred Ritchin (who conceptualized this project) and Deborah Willis.
As the exhibition opens, each of the hosts will have a designated space, but the walls will be empty. Progressively throughout the first two weeks of the “exhibition,” the walls will be filled in whatever manner each table decides. As the exhibition emerges, its contents will be posted online, daily, via a dedicated blog, as well as via Facebook and Twitter, at www.aperture.org/whatmattersnow and #whatmattersnow; allowing remote participants to respond and to create a seventh wall dedicated to ideas from the public.
Computers, printers, phones and iPads will be used by hosts and audience members for the duration of the exhibition. Materials may be printed, projected, hung and even destroyed as the exhibition progresses. Hosts might decide that what we should all be looking at is a particular Renaissance painting, or the work of particular photojournalists, or a thousand mini print-outs of images sourced online—or nothing at all. Contributions will be solicited from people around the world who are not able to visit in person. By sending files to dedicated email addresses set up for each table, as well as a general account, remote participants will be able to add their suggestions of imagery, multimedia projects and websites as part of the exhibition in-process.