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LIVING ARTEFACTS – Risk Hazekamp, Unlearning Photography

Analogue photography is the central medium of Risk Hazekamp’s art practice. Producing an analogue photograph involves creating an image, but it also stimulates action and thought. Confronted with the toxicity and coloniality of analogue photography, Hazekamp began to experiment with light-sensitive emulsions made from organic materials. Ephemeral images of diverse plants, vegetables, fruit, and other organisms emerged. This presentation explores the further extension of these ideas of toxicity and exploitation, through a journey which led to the conception of a living and breathing photograph: a photographic process that converts carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis.

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Unlearning Photography

Unlearning Photography is a research project in which living photography is investigated. As an artist working with analogue photography, researcher Risk Hazekamp is facing the two inherent downsides of the photographic medium: its toxicity and its racism.

Toxicity and photography are intimately linked: for example, in the preservation of analogue photos by chemical fixation. Almost all analogue processes use non-degradable chemical compounds.

Photography’s racism is embedded in how the medium has been shaped by and used in violent colonial practices of defining, categorizing and creating the visible. But it is also present in technical aspects, such as the fact that film emulsion could not register dark tones the same way as light tones.

A cyanobacteria culture gets a few drops of my blood. I think about the violence of this gesture and about contamination.
Colour and form experiment with wet (chemical) cyanotype developing processes.
Experimental setup with cyanobacteria in petri dishes, transparent sheet and a 200W LED growth light.
Organic photography experiment with emulsion made from cyanobacteria.
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‘It is through the “not-knowing” that a stimulating and caring environment can be created to confidently share vulnerability.’

Risk Hazekamp is researcher within the Biobased Art and Design research group and tutor for the Art & Research study programme at St. Joost School of Art & Design. 

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‘The dynamic relationship between humans and living artefacts will continue to evolve reciprocally with mutual care.’

Elvin Karana is Research Professor of Biobased Art and Design at the Avans and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering, leading the research group Materializing Futures at TU/Delft. 

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Research Group: Biobased Art and Design

The research group Biobased Art and Design capitalises on the role of artistic practice in unlocking the unique potentials of living organisms for everyday materials and communicating these to a broader public. In doing so, the group aims to instigate and accelerate our widespread understanding, further development and usage of such materials. The group’s research approach encourages tangible interactions with the living organisms, such as algae, fungi, plants and bacteria, to explore and understand their unique qualities and constraints through diverse technical and creative methods taking artists, designers and scientists as equal and active partners in the material creation.

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