On the verge of a new alphabet
Central to the 2020 Noorderlicht International Photography Festival is the mind-set and energy of Generation Z, the youngest generation of world citizens. The way they interact with their dystopian future perspective is a source of varied emotions. A simultaneous cesspool and wishing well, with grand and compelling activism, and simmering developments that often remain under the radar. By tapping into these storylines, Noorderlicht aims to provide insight into this new generation’s reflections on the future and mirrors them against the reflections of previous generations.
X and Y versus Z
The oldest members of Generation Z were born in the mid-nineties. They are, of course, the successors of the generations indicated by the letters X (1960 – 1980, Pragmatists) and Y (1980 – 1995, Millennials). X and Y can roughly be viewed as their grandparents and parents, passing on their legacy to a new generation. In the eyes of Z, they are responsible for the state of the earth and society.
X and Y’s attempts to give the future of their grandchildren and children a more hopeful turn seem to stem from the individualistic world perception they were brought up with: smothered at times by the maelstrom of the system and above all fighting the pressure to perform. But they are also the ones who started the dialogue, passing on insight to the new generation.
According to marketers and sociologists, Generation Z consists of digital world citizens who cannot imagine a world without internet and smartphones. It is the first generation that, from an early age, has an infinite amount of information at its finger tips, but is also aware of its problematic relationship with the truth. This generation is currently witnessing the start of the fourth industrial revolution, in which technology is turning labour relations and the very essence of humanity upside down; fully aware of who may reap the benefits.
Z is known to be overwhelmed by climate threats and the consequences of a nature exhausted. With no conscious memories of 9/11, this generation can’t remember a time without a war on terror. On top of which, it has to deal with a growing economic gap that offers little confidence in a stable future.
The new alphabet
So how is Generation Z actually doing? Work pressure problems are something they are well acquainted with, and they also have a thing or two to say about regressing back into nationalistic petty-mindedness. Self-enrichment and the erosion of the earth are troubling them ever-more. They even take issue with the last letter of the alphabet, that depressing letter Z. They are the young people who find it more difficult to relate to one another in the physical world and struggle with the knowledge that their real life is not the same as the screen reality they have created.
Yet a considerable chunk of this generation fires each other up on social media and collectively takes to the streets to bring about change. Fighting hand in hand for a new balance, a balance between the forces that must guarantee the future of this planet. If one thing is clear to these young adults, it is that the current system no longer suffices, that the new alphabet must start with a capital A, and that everything possible must be done to achieve this.
Z and the future
Z is clearing up radically, speeding up inclusivity – relations are shifting towards a more equal society and abuses are tackled with an activist attitude. Subjects such as de-colonialization, gender equality and body positivity are on the agenda, and that is just the beginning. A dialogue is growing that transcends geography and connects the global north with the global south. It rises above humanity and deals with equality between human, animal and thing.
For Z, acting against our anthropocentric world view is essential for the survival of our society. Because of this, nothing can be taken for granted anymore and every part of the current system must be scrutinised. The greatest struggle, the post-humanist struggle against the system, has yet to be fought.
Generation Z is about realising a turning point, about creating a basis for a new future, and about taking responsibility. It is about an activist struggle against the system of the past and putting new ideas into practice. Generation Z in this story is the personification of a change in thinking and acting, in which all generations will have to participate. The protagonist of the last and the first hour. It is the prelude to a new alphabet.
In order to sketch a view of the processes that are going on, we not only wish to appeal to photographers and artists belonging to Generation Z. In keeping with the spirit of the subject is a collective movement. Everyone is welcome to contribute to addressing and refining the subjects that deserve our attention: all generations, individuals as well as collectives. This also applies if your opinion differs from the one outlined above, or if you feel that other elements of the story or other existential needs should come to the fore. We therefore call upon everyone – even if this is the first time you wish to send something in to an Open Call, or if your practice goes beyond photography – to push your boundaries literally and figuratively.
Generation Z is compiled by guest-curator Robert Jan Verhagen in close consultation with the team of Noorderlicht. The festival will include a mix of own research and submissions. Noorderlicht welcomes proposals from photographers, lens-based artists and curators from all parts of the world. Art forms relating to photography, such as digital media, video or VR, are also specifically requested, as is work in which photography enters into a dialogue with all other conceivable types of media.
Proposals can be submitted until 20 February 2020.
Guidelines for submissions
Submissions for the open call are free of charge. Selected artists receive compensation in accordance with the Dutch guidelines for artists’ fees for group exhibitions. Noorderlicht subscribes to the Fair Practice Code for work in art, culture and creative industries.
Submissions can be sent to email@example.com. We request that you send large files via a file transfer service, such as WeTransfer. Submissions must contain visual material in the form of separate JPG image files with a breadth of at least 1500 pixels, a clear description of the project plus a synopsis of ± 100-150 words, why you think it fits the theme, a CV, a short bio, and any additional background information where required. Videos must be submitted in full length in a preview format, compressed and no more than HD resolution. If possible, please provide examples of previous exhibitions and installations of the submitted proposal or similar presentations of your work.
Before submitting your entry, please read the Exhibition FAQ for information about the selection procedure and the terms and conditions regarding the production of your work. Entrants will first receive a confirmation of receipt followed by news of the selections at a later stage. For questions about your submission, please contact Robert Jan Verhagen: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Noorderlicht Festival
Generation Z is the 27th edition of the Noorderlicht International Photography Festival and takes place from 20 June until 20 September 2020. Museum Belvédère in Heerenveen is both partner and the main location, complemented by locations in Heerenveen and Leeuwarden.
Noorderlicht is an international platform for artists who use photography and adjoining media in all its stories, forms and changes to portray their engagement with society.
Robert Jan Verhagen
Robert Jan Verhagen was curator and director of LhGWR in The Hague until the end of 2018. LhGWR was known for its talent coaching and a lens-based media programme approached from a visual arts perspective. He has been working as an independent curator and adviser for several months now, and Noorderlicht is proud to be able to collaborate with Verhagen.