Fredi Casco on Paraguayan Photography
“Photography is no longer considered only as a medium or as a language, it has become one of the most interesting spaces of thought.¨ photographer and curator of PHmuseum Paraguayan Photography, Fredi Casco shares his thoughts on contemporary photography.
From the series the series Loose Photo by © Fernando Allen - Paraguayan Photography
Before starting with photography you were a lawyer. What led you to bind yourself to the image world?
Soon after I finished college, I went to live in Paris for a couple of years. My photographic culture at that time (early nineties) was reduced practically to what I saw in the newspapers, magazines and family albums; in Paraguay photography was rarely considered as anything but a sort of “lesser brother” of the Fine Arts, and I had no access to the production of authors who were doing something else with the medium at the time.
I was lucky to coincide, at the beginning of my stay in Paris, with the Mois de la Photo. The city, already photogenic ad nauseam, offered me for over a month a huge amount and variety of possible approaches to photography. Returning to Paraguay, I wanted to leave everything to become a photographer. The circumstances would make that desire still scour different routes than the expected at first. I basically stumbled on the way to the literature, more particularly poetry, and certain practices of contemporary art.
Throughout your body of work you use a variety of formats (from Polaroids to multimedia), where you tend to question both the medium, the message, senders, and recipients. What led you to explore these issues?
As from these encounters (with poetry and contemporary art theory) I became interested more in the image rather than in the tecnichal production of these images. Still having a particular interest in photography and video, I let myself explore various fields, sometimes with complete confidence, allowing me, after time, to approach critically and in an unorthodox way to the media.
From some time the Internet has occupied a central place in the circulation of information and images. What are your thoughts about this? In what ways do you think the Internet benefits or damages the medium?
Nothing new under the sun. The old discusion between the apocalyptics and the integrated is still going on, although nowadays there is such a big confusion that it resembles to a discussion between “integralyptics and apotegrated”. At last, the Internet is there, it is a tool, not a weapon of mass destruction, and we must take care of that, ideally in a critical way. Artists must politicize internet. “More ethics, less aesthetics”, I think this as a very interesting starting point.
In addition to your work as a photographer, you are member of Sueño de la Razón, one of the most important publications in the region. Tell us about the magazine and your role there.
I was lucky to be in Sueño de la Razón from the beginning, when we were four or five dreamers that gathered in Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia) invited by Andrea Josch and Luis Weinstein. Regarding my role, it is basically the same as all the editors, except perhaps that it was me who proposed the name of the magazine. Also, for some time I was internal coordinator and text editor.
You are also co-founder of the photography festival of Paraguay El Ojo Salvaje, how did this project begin and what are the future plans?
Its history dates back to the photo essay workshops taught by Jorge Saenz since 2003. At the end of each year, we used to organize a group exhibition where we showed our annual production.
In 2007 we made a larger show, “Click, fotografía de autor en Paraguay”, in which we invited Paraguayan photographers who were not directly linked to the workshop and also some international authors, such as the Argentine photographer Ataúlfo Pérez Aznar.
The following year, Jorge asked me to hel him organize a “month of photography”, among other things, because at that time I worked as editor in a style and trends magazine, that gave a important role to photography, and where each month we published photo essays of local and international authors.
From the beginning it was an international photography festival. We gave good use to our travels and contacts abroad to achieve this goal: showing Paraguayan most interesting photography as well as a high quality international photography production. Last year the fourth edition of the festival took place (it is held every two years), and I realize that it continues enjoying of good health.
How do you see the current worldwide photography landscape? What is its role in contemporary society?
I think that in general terms, photography has come to occupy a central place in Western culture, especially in the distribution centers of culture, from the mass media, to museums, exhibitions, galleries, etc .. Also, I think that photography is no longer considered only as a means or as a language, it has become one of the most interesting spaces for theory and reflection … I mean, when it is used in a critical way.
And what place do you think Paraguayan Photography occupies in this context?
I’m not sure there is a specific Paraguayan photography identity, as I am not very sure that there is a Latin American photography identity. What does exist is a series of photographic practices and authors interested in critically approaching the reality that surrounds them. Paraguay is no exception. What is missing is better visibility of Paraguayan works and authors.
Talking specifically about the photographers you have chosen for Paraguayan Photography, why have you selected each of them and in what ways do you see them as current referents of your country’s photography?
Many of the selected photographers already have significant experience in Paraguay; with the exception of Marcelo Sandoval: a young photographer who conducted very interesting research into the rural population in the Ñeembucú wetlands.
Jorge Saenz presents one of his most recent works that looks at the (political) social classes of Paraguay – an uncompromising photographic essay, much like the series Facades by Javier Medina, who works on a poetic/political photographic register of the post-dictatorship contemporary ruins.
Fernando Allen, in his tireless tour throughout the country performs – in parallel with his other works on peasant and indigenous cultures – a kind of photographic road trip in which he identifies elements and situations where the rural aesthetics converge with the mass culture.
Finally, we have Juan Carlos Meza, a veteran of Paraguayan photojournalism, who together with Alejandro Valdez and a group of other individuals, is developing through the project FOTO CICLO, an exhaustive examination of the diverse aspects of the city of Asunción.
What message do you want the public to keep after seeing Paraguayan Photography?
I selected these photographers, and particularly these works, because the intention is to show various aspects of contemporary Paraguay – its culture and society, through photographic projects that when viewed together take us on a trip through one of the most unknown countries in the world.
Born in 1967 in Asunción, Paraguay. Lives in Asunción. Fredi Casco became an artist, photographer and writer in 1997. His work, awarded by the grant for emerging artists from the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (2007), is mainly composed of photographic images that he collects, as well as videos and installations.
He is also member of the editorial committee for the photography review Sueño de la Razón, cofounder of El Ojo Salvaje, Mes de la Fotografía en Paraguay, and co-director of the independent publishing house La Ura in Asunción. His work challenges the power of medias and compares the historical importance of official culture with the popular and indigenous culture. He analyses the transparency and neutrality of television and print media, and reveals certain media strategies of the postcolonial system in place in Paraguay.
His work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions such as the 3rd and 5th Mercosul Biennials in Porto Alegre in 2001 and 2005, the Valencia Biennial in Spain in 2007, the Efecto Downey at the Telefónica Foundation in Buenos Aires in 2006, the 2nd Biennale of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2009, and the 10th Biennial in Havana, Cuba in 2009. He also took part of El Atlas del Imperio an exhibition organized by the Italian-Latin American Institute at the 55th Venice Biennale and America Latina, Photographies 1960-2013 organized by the Fondation Cartier pour L’Art Contemporain, in 2013, Now You See it, Photography and Concealment at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Erased at the Josee Bienvenu Gallery and his first solo show in Europe La Fascination des Sirenes at the Maison de l´Amerique Latine (Paris), in 2014, Operaciones en la Selva at Galerie Vallois (Paris), Teoría de la conspiración, CAV/Museo del Barro (Asunción) in 2015.