Exhibition Proposal – Puncture Map [Excerpt]

Punctum as theme

“[An] element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces” (CL26) — this was how Roland Barthes defined the concept of punctum in his book Camera Lucida: Reflections of Photography. This curatorial exhibition aims to explore the concept of studium and punctum in photographic works through an interactive website which allows visitors to pin a point on an image to mark “sites of puncture.”

Studium, according to Barthes, is something that you can easily recognize as the knowledge surrounding it is already readily available whether through culture, history, or common sense. However, he said that this kind of photographic element is something that “pleases nor displeases without pricking.” Simply put, this is the obvious subject of the image which may just induce surface appreciation, or at the very least, a glance. Enter punctum: “an accident which pricks and also bruises.” (CL 27) It is a specific detail that catches your eye, reason being is that encountering punctum is coming from a layer of personal experiences and preferences.

Among the many photographs used by Barthes to establish punctum (from Mapplethorpe to Nadar to Stieglitz), the Winter Garden Photograph holds the key to understanding the concept. Such is the reason why he wrote the book: to discover not what photography is but what photography is for him (Oxman 82) . This photograph, which is not printed on the book, was of his late mother when she was little. For us, he said that “at most it would interest your studium: period, clothes, photogeny; but in it, for you, no wound.” (CL 73) However, for Barthes, simple details such as the girl’s countenance — “with an air of goodness (no impulse of power)” — wounded him as it is a reminder of his mother who he deeply loved.

Webpages (virtual rooms) as spaces for curation and interaction

This curatorial project will be hosted online in a website built specifically for the exhibition. This is necessary to have full control of the environment around which the images will exist. The power of the everywhereness of social media is uncontested, but an independent platform is imperative to execute the concept. This is my response to the challenge of digital to curators: “How do you attribute, and value, an infinitely producible object that could be produced anywhere globally that has the necessary technology?”(Harding et al. 6)

The images will be grouped and placed into separate webpages which will act as virtual rooms. Upon entering the exhibition, all visitors will start at the landing page featuring Album d’Études–Poses by Louis Igout. There will be markers pointing to north, east, west, and south leading to different rooms which are titled using specific chapters in Camera Lucida that correspond to the room’s theme.

This was conceptualized for Curatorship (Art Stud 195) course in UP Diliman, 2nd Semester AY 20-21. To read the full proposal, please email hello [at] ellekaie.com.