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Q&A with PhMuseum Director Giuseppe Oliverio on PhMuseum Days Festival 2023


We sat down with Giuseppe Oliverio, the Director of PhMuseum, to delve into the heart of the upcoming third edition of PhMuseum Days and its compelling theme, "I Don't Know How To Respond To That." Oliverio spoke with us about the inspiration behind the festival’s theme, citing the ongoing surge of attention around artificial intelligence (AI) as a catalyst. He underlines how the festival aims to explore the ever-evolving relationship between photography, technology, and humanity, by reflecting on the profound impacts of technological innovations on our communities, communication methods, and our very connection with the world.

As the festival gears up to take place from 22 September to 1 October 2023 at the captivating venue of DumBO's Spazio Bianco, in Bologna, Italy, Oliverio shares his insights into how this unique setting enhances the overall experience. The festival's programming lineup is diverse and impactful, featuring exhibitions that engage with themes of human-machine interaction, the environment, identity, and the language of visual communication. Read on to learn about how Oliverio manages the challenges of directing a multi-dimensional event that engages with contemporary technological shifts and the evolving language of photography.

Der Greif: Hi, Giuseppe! Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the theme "I Don't Know How To Respond To That" for the third edition of PhMuseum Days?

The great attention we lately see around AI is just the latest of many tech innovations involving photography in the past 20 years - from the advent of digital cameras to NFTs passing through Photoshop, smartphones, and social media platforms. Hence we decided to explore how these innovations affect our communities, how we live and communicate, and our relationship with the planet.

Der Greif: How do you envision the dialogue between humans and machines in the context of the festival? What are your expectations for the exploration of language and communication in this evolving technological world?

We first selected a series of works that could look at that subject from different angles, and stimulate open conversations. We then invested a good amount of energy in developing installations and environments that could emphasize the concepts of the works exhibited. This work is quite delicate as it is crucial in engaging the audience, which is quite diverse since the festival is based in a major Italian city. Answering the second question, I believe recent innovations can empower the way we communicate as long as we work together to understand their potentials and regulate their potential issues.

Der Greif: The festival is set to take place at DumBO's Spazio Bianco, a post-industrial pavilion. How does this venue contribute to the overall experience and atmosphere of the event?

We confirmed the location for the third consecutive year since we love its energy and the opportunity to curate exhibitions in a non-conventional place. Spazio Bianco will host the work of eight authors plus a collective show dedicated to the dummies produced within Folio, our online masterclass on the photobook. Each project occupies a dedicated area, yet the shared space facilitates a dialogue among them. This is an important aspect. It helps visitors connect the different inputs offered by the works on display and encourages more in-depth reflections. We also love to have a single headquarters animated by talks, guided tours, a photobook hub, and a beer garden. It creates that festival mood. Beyond Spazio Bianco, in this third edition, we present four more shows around Bologna with the aim to engage the local community, collaborate with other organizations such as Cassero LGBTI+ Club and Gallleriapiù, and offer visitors a good excuse to explore Bologna. For a similar reason, we will open a preview exhibition at Condominio, in Milan, in partnership with Portofino Dry Gin on 14 September. It will be the second after Sara Bastai’s RAM_4.0 at PhMuseum Lab in May, for a total of 15 shows.

Der Greif: Could you share some insights into the exhibition program for this edition? What can attendees expect in terms of featured artists and their works?

The dialogue with artificial intelligence is crucial to Another Online Pervert by Brea Souders and RAM_4.0 by Sara Bastai which explore the way we can communicate with machines. Penelope Umbrico will bring together four projects (Screen Sun, 1320 TVs from Craigslist, 53.6 Million Metric Tons of E-Waste, Screen Code) for the exhibition Out of Order which focuses on the ubiquitous presence of screen devices in our lives and on the weight of their afterlife. Deposits is a new work by Felicity Hammond that evokes the contradictions of the conflict between industry and the environment where the production of luxury goods has an ever greater impact on our landscapes. Known and Strange Things Pass by Andy Sewell documents life on either side of the Atlantic, where the Internet’s cables are concentrated. West of Here by Leonardo Magrelli at first glance looks like a classical photographic survey of Los Angeles, but instead depicts Los Santos, the fictional scenario where the video game Grand Theft Auto V is set. It’s a work that questions our perception of reality, as it does Dreams Of A Blue Garden, which is a dreamlike journey where Martina Giammaria asks us which are the elements that make up the imaginary of a place across time and space. Non Technological Devices by Chloé Milos Azzopardi questions our relationship with nature and the disappearance of earthly “resources”, thus shaping new ways of imagining augmented lives. The environmental impact of the internet and aviation is fundamental to Flyin’ High, by the Italian duo The Cool Couple. A one-hour flight from Milan to Rome on a simulated digital plane, Flyin’ High is an NFT, too: buying it corresponds to boarding the aircraft for real, as it would equally pollute the environment by emitting the same amount of CO2. Captionthis by Luca Massaro explores the ever-changing relationship between image and word. Security Questions by Daniel Everett addresses the divide between human complexity and the technological systems we use to assess it. Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana by Gloria Oyarzabal reflects on decolonizing the gaze, something that is also explored in Illusions by Namsa Leuba.

Der Greif: As the Director of PhMuseum, what challenges did you face in organizing this edition of the festival, especially considering the continuous innovations in technology and communication?

In response to these continuous innovations, the work of artists who mostly implement the photography language as the starting point for their research is becoming more complex and articulated, often involving other mediums. Selecting the most proper for our festival requires challenges at a conceptual level - you need to understand their research and visual language in depth. The same goes for the moment of presenting them in a physical space to a diverse audience. We dialogue consistently with the artists engaged and within our team to answer these challenges. Plus, at a practical level, renting, preparing files, and installing TVs, projectors, giant screens, security cameras connected to cable TVs, etc... requires a sensible effort in terms of budget and time for young independent organizations like ours.

Der Greif: How do you believe the festival will contribute to the understanding of how contemporary advances impact our relationships with technology and communication?

At the festival, we present a mosaic of stories and points of view. The exhibitions are a way to open up the conversation thanks to the artists’ research. The talks, guided tours, and workshops are a way to encourage dialogue and collaboration. We hope that such a context will nurture visitors with information and stimulate them to better understand the implications of technology in our daily lives.

Der Greif: Lastly, can you tell us how PhMuseum Days has evolved since its founding and what the future holds for your organization?

We consider PhMuseum Days as an annual occasion to gather together in person, enjoy photography and discuss relevant issues. We are working to engage an audience beyond photography and to link the educational and promotional activities of the festival, with those we run throughout the year on As communication becomes more and more visual, we hope to offer our contribution to the diffusion and evolution of the visual culture.