'True Stories: Fiction in the Archive' - Talk by Peter Pfrunder

Artist talk

Date: Mar 09, 2019
Time: 06:00 pm - 08:00 pm IST
Venue: Novotel Chamiers Road


True Stories: Fiction in the Archive
Talk by Peter Pfrunder
Director and curator, Swiss Foundation of Photography

Moderated by curator Pushpamala N

Photo archives tend to be considered as a visual documentation, a reliable representation of reality, full of evidence that gives access to the past. However, with close reading, the "reality claim" of photography often proves to be a projection, forming the past according to a narrative that is constantly adapted to the needs of the present. What kind of "truth" and how much "fiction" can we find in photo archives?

In his talk, Peter Pfrunder focuses on the large collection of the Swiss Foundation for Photography (Winterthur / Zurich) to work out the specific qualities of the photographic archive as a container of narratives between facts and fiction. Regardless of the institutional mission, the accumulation of images was ? and still is ? closely linked to the concept of "national identity" or to the visualization of social change; the photographs often function as powerful and affective sources to reinforce a sense of being, of authenticity and stability. This argument will be illustrated with case studies from the collection of the Swiss Foundation for Photography.

Peter Pfrunder, born in Singapore, studied literature and popular culture at the Universities of Zurich, Berlin, and Montpellier (France), receiving his doctorate in 1988. Until 1998 he worked as a newspaper editor, responsible for the arts sector, and as a freelance journalist. As an author and exhibition curator, he focuses on photography as part of the visual culture of Switzerland in a broad sense and has developed different approaches for working with archives. For the last 20 years, he has served as director and curator of the Fotostiftung Schweiz / Swiss Foundation for Photography, Winterthur. This Foundation was founded 1971 in Zurich and, under the direction of Peter Pfrunder, has become the most important national heritage institution for photography in Switzerland, supported by the Swiss government.

The Foundation collects photographic estates of outstanding photographers and promotes their works in exhibitions, publications and with an online database. It also looks after a large collection of photographs covering the history of the medium from the beginnings to the present. The Swiss Foundation for Photography is also a member of the national network and platform "Memoriav", that connects organizations and institutions to discuss and promote strategies for the preservation of the audiovisual heritage and to realize projects (including film, video, sound, TV and radio programmes, performance and photography). Since 2015, Peter Pfrunder is a member of the board of "Memoriav".

Peter Pfrunder has published a wide range of books and essays on photography. He curates exhibitions in Switzerland and abroad and contributes to international Festivals such as Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles or Lianzhoufoto, China. He was a jury member of Lianzhou foto in 2014 and 2015. In 2016 / 17, he co-curated the acclaimed exhibition "Follow_Me. New Narratives in Contemporary Photography" (OCAT Shanghai and Shenzhen), with Shi Hantao, bringing together the works of Chinese and Swiss photographers concerned with the topic of storytelling. In 2018, he curated the exhibition "Envisioning Asia: Gandhi and Mao in the photographs of Walter Bosshard" at Kiran Nadar Museum of Arts, New Delhi (together with Gayatri Sinha). Among his most important publications figure Gotthard Schuh ? A Kind of Infatuation (2009); Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present ? A Different History of Photography (2011); Adieu la Suisse! Construction and Deconstruction of a Photographic Myth (2012); Childhood in Switzerland in the Mirror of Photography (2015); Unfamiliar Familiarities. Outside Views on Switzerland (2017); Walter Bosshard, The Race for China, Reports 1931 ? 1939 (2018); Peter Pfrunder lives and works in Zug and Winterthur, Switzerland.

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