“Earlier societies managed so that memory, the substitute for life, was eternal and that at least the thing which spoke Death should itself be immortal: this was the Monument. But by making the (mortal) Photograph into the general and somehow natural witness of ‘what has been’, modern society has renounced the Monument.”
- Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida
Memory in all its apparently isolated, collective or cultural configurations is about what is no longer there and much of the discourse, in its key concepts, on what it is not, or rather, what it has moved on or away from. It is a multidisciplinary area and a veritable academic battlefield at that. Conflict, Time, Photography (The Eyal Ofer Galleries, Tate Modern, London, 26 November 2014-15 March 2015), is a photographic exhibition about war, but it is not photojournalism, it is about ‘what has been.’. It is not about the chaos of combat, the atrocities of death, the dying, or the needing to know, it is about the ethics and aesthetics of already knowing. It is as much about the living and surviving, the trauma of war and how that is felt in the present as it is about how artists, and by extension societies, come to terms with the atrocities and abuses of the past. As with any visual consideration of conflict, and our eternal fascination of its sometimes dark beauty, it is about our humanity and often, by extension, a meditation on our own mortality, morality and sometimes sense of national identity. But most of all, Conflict, Time, Photography, is about Memory and Moment.