On Photography – A symposium on the legacy of Susan Sontag

Date and time
April 20, 2018, at 01:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Type of event
Place and route

Moderna Museet

Forty years ago, Susan Sontag published On Photography (1977), a book that has had a seminal influence on photographic discourse and practice. To what degree is her oeuvre discussed by contemporary photographers and artists?

Speakers: David Campany, curator, writer and artist, teaches at the University of Westminster in London. Susie Linfield, associate professor of journalism at New York University. Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, PhD, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Uniarts Helsinki. Lisa Tan, artist working with video, photography and installations in Stockholm.

Rebecca Bengtsson is a PhD candidate at the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University. Her research concerns the relationship between photographs, human rights and affect, focusing on photojournalistic representations of refugee migration in mainstream media.

Henrik Andersson is an artist and a curator, and teaches photography at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. His works have been included in exhibitions at Moderna Museet, Färgfabriken, Index, Marabouparken Konsthall and Tirana International Contemporary Art Biannual. Henrik Andersson has been working as curator at Röda Sten Konsthall in Gothenburg and is a member of the editorial committee of Paletten and OEI.

Moderna Museet in association with the Department of Media Studies at Stockholm University, and the Department of Fine Art at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm.

Anna TellgrenProtected address

Department of Fine Art

More information

13.00 – 13.15 Welcome address by Anna Tellgren, Curator of Photography and Research leader, Moderna Museet

13.15 – 14.00 Susie Linfield: Susan Sontag: Thinking For – and Against – Oneself
Over a long career of writing, Susan Sontag was, of course, wrong about many things. But being wrong – or right – is the least important aspect of her work. It is the method with which Sontag approached writing and thinking – her restlessness, her ability to change, her propensity to interrogate her own beliefs – that is most important. This ability to think against oneself is especially important, indeed crucial, at the present time, when we are faced with so many seemingly intractable political crises that resist our previous formulas.

14.00 – 14.45 Lisa Tan will introduce her film. Screening of Notes From Underground (2013)

14.45 – 15.15 Coffee

15.15 – 15.45 Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger: The Aesthetics of Silence
The lecture will focus on Susan Sontag's early text The Aesthetics of Silence from 1967, which will be observed in connection to exhibition histories and politics of the "white cube". The text will be read also in light of some critical observations of contemporary photography exhibiting practices. It will open another perspective to Sontag's legacy along the more well-known texts as On Photography (1977) and Regarding the Pain of Others (2003).

15.45 – 16.30 David Campany: On Photography/On Photographs
David Campany will discuss Susan Sontag's place in discussions and theories of the medium that are often split between considering photography en masse (as a set of social and artistic phenomena), and considering individual photographic images.

16.30 – 17.30 Panel Discussion with David Campany, Susie Linfield, Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger and Lisa Tan. Moderators: Rebecca Bengtsson, Department of Media Studies, Stockholm University and Henrik Andersson, Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm.

Updated: 10 April 2018