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Joan Colom, Untitled, 1958-1961 from: Raval. Gelatin-silver print, 23 x 16,6 cm. Courtesy of Foto Colectania, Barcelona © Joan Colom

ZURICH.- Photography is present everywhere. It plays a formative role in all societies and in private, public, intimate, commercial, and “free” areas of our lives. It is also present in the closed off areas, there where it is “dark,” where we withdraw from society, or where acts are excluded from society. For eroticism, sexuality, desire, and identity, photography is a central visual tool: as document, stimulation, instrument of power, and as artistic form of expression.

The exhibition and book project Darkside will discuss photography as an instrument of representation and as an important visual catalyst of sexuality. Photography shows and stylizes lust and passion, fantasy and desire, power and violence, voyeurism and self-presentation in sexuality. Fantasy and desire form a thrilling pact with photography: sexual fantasies demand representation; they seek to be revealed—and photography, with its voyeuristic streak, makes use of the power of (pictorial) eroticism for its own ends, in order to gain power and be seductive.

Darkside presents this photography and discusses it in numerous detailed essays. The exhibition and book are dedicated to photographs of ideal, natural and grotesque bodies, among others. The project conceives of sexuality as part of existence, presenting photographs of sexual practices, desires and phantasms. Sexuality is discussed in surrealism and reflected in its objectivisation and fetishisation; voyeurism is confronted with exhibitionism; sexuality and the body are dealt with within the context of gender debates and, finally, as power and as business.

In the process, it is always about the images that we make of “sexuality,” and about the endless blurring of fantasy and reality in photography that has taken place in the last one hundred years. The room has long been dark and dark is the night that gives the city and desire freedom and strength; “dark” is above all else the metaphor of connecting, flowing, swallowing up—of body, soul and spirit— which has taken place since time immemorial at the centre of life, of events, yet been excluded from society. That is, at least until pornography at the end of the twentieth century began to cast a cool, harsh economic light into the dim and warm areas of the body.

With works of more than 150 photographers, such as Brassaï, Bill Brandt, Hans Bellmer, Man Ray, Pierre Molinier, Germaine Krull, Frantisek Drtikol, Claude Cahun, Christer Stroemholm, Anders Petersen, Ed van der Elsken, Walter Chappell, Peter Hujar, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin, Valie Export, Carolee Schneemann, Urs Lüthi, Hannah Villiger, Nobuyoshi Araki, Daido Moriyama, Noritoshi Hirakawa, Arno Nollen, Paul Armand Gette, and many others.

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Christer Strömholm, Place Blanche, 1960’s. Gelatin-silver print, 34,9 x 44,7 cm. Collection Fotomuseum Winterthur © Christer Strömholm Estate