Reading Period: 4 minutes
The Horizon is Moving Nearer, from Bienal Fotografia do Porto, brings together series from many photographers. Collectively, their work commentates on the critical issues shaping contemporary life and considers how we may solve them
The Horizon is Moving Nearer , exhibiting as part of Bienal’21 Fotografia do Porto , seeks to find answers to how we attained our current predicament while forming questions about progressing out of it. Vast and interconnected issues from the climate problems to systemic racism amplified and further exposed by a worldwide pandemic can no longer be withstood or denied. At a time of collective anxiety over a good unclear future, the exhibition considers what images plus realities are to come?
Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa’s One Wall a Web (2018) occupies one particular cell in the space. Archival imagery, text, and modern visuals rub against one another to generate emotive resonances. These people resist definition but are usually disquietingly familiar nonetheless, invoking one to speculate on exactly why. The photographs are files of America: a blown-up poster of a bodybuilder through sometime in the 1950s-60s, where the individual seemingly ‘salutes’ in the Javelin position on stage, weighs before a monochrome postcard-sized snap showing quiet television sets alongside a ‘VOTE’ indication from a later era. Opposing, there is a stark image depicting a penitentiary today.
This specific curation is only one of the many interrelations found throughout the display also it provokes questions around perceived differences between power plus violence. The project avoids reproducing dominant visual methods — such as spectacle — to explore configurations of structural inequality in America. Instead, it reveals what is often rendered invisible: ‘imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ to borrow Bell Hooks oft-cited phrase, which she has employed to describe the interlocking political systems at play. Further, by incorporating symbolism placed along a time continuum, the curation reveals this particular visual legacy’s history simply at the point it tries to re-articulate itself inside the present.
Housed within the Colonial Centre of Photography (Centro Português de Fotografia), which usually occupies the Cadeia sobre Relação, a labyrinthine 18th-century prison-turned-photography-museum, the exhibition happens across cells that held prisoners of Estado Novo until the 1970s. The Portuguese dictatorship wielded a powerful visible legacy that promoted the Salazarist vision, and the oppressive space serves as a tip that photography has always been vulnerable to dominant forces. As such, the particular featured photographers (also which includes Lisa Barnard, Poulomi Basu, Nancy Burson, Maxime Matthys, Gideon Mendel, Simon Roberts and Salvatore Vitale) work outside of traditional documentary pictures practice. “They all think critically and self-reflexively, not merely about the world but the world of images, ” publishes articles curator Tim Clark, who is also a author and the editor in key and director of 1000 Terms . “Many of them, in this specific group, inspire me being a curator given that they deal with that delicious paradox of trying to approach a given reality with a documentary attitude, while it continually mutates and evaporates or even is too vast and composite to merit a singular approach. ”
In a second cell, the Indian artist plus activist Poulomi Basu’s multi-layered series Centralia (2010-20) explores an ongoing conflict between Of india and the Maoist People’s Freedom Guerrilla Army over mineral resources and indigenous groups’ land rights. Like Wolukau-Wanambwa, Basu resists simplification plus invites a more nuanced reading by refusing to give all of us the whole picture. Instead, fragmented photographs, documents and textual content leave gaps forcing the viewer to look harder and think longer. And when the conflict portrait of violence appears, Basu troubles the consumption of it. Strung among two pillars hangs an image of two corpses, that are only partially visible through a thick cinematic red seepage. By sitting at the intersection of reality and a heightened emotional state, the work assists viewers consider how we process visual cues in an associated with post-truth geopolitics.
Post-truth becoming part of our vernacular is certainly unsurprisingly linked to Trump as well as the rise of the alt-right, political strongmen and Brexit. All whom figure throughout the display in various forms. Nancy Burson’s Trump as Five Different Races (2016) imagines the previous president as of other nationalities, denying him the whiteness on which he divined himself. She considers an alternative Trump, one who could express emotional empathy for people despite perceived differences, instead of employing xenophobia as fuel. In attractive to a state of mass anxiety, Trump generated false threats while obscuring real types. Gideon Mendel’s Deluge (2018) sits in direct discussion — five screens show devastating flood footage from your UK to Houston and India, a stark reminder of the environmental issues all of us face.
If the projects presented throughout make noticeable the abstract socio, financial and political factors at play, the exhibition’s last leg explores displays of state surveillance. In Salvatore Vitale’s project How to Secure a Country , the photographer interrogates the private world of security. Switzerland touts alone as the safest country on the planet, but the work problematises this particular. It investigates and reveals the social and technological mechanisms that underlie the country’s national security and exactly how these mechanisms become normalised.
Elsewhere, Lebensregel Matthys re-creates Chinese condition surveillance algorithms as delivered by biometric facial recognition software. 2091: The Ministry Of Privacy (2019) is an Orwellian reference to the 6. 7 million trackers that monitor the Xinjiang province, where it is estimated the government have detained 1 . one million Muslim Uyghurs. Matthys’ photographs simultaneously anonymise individuals in the images while disclosing their vulnerability through data visualisations. While he is careful not to compare Western data collection to a state-sanctioned cultural plus ethnic genocide, the future of security technology is still uncharted place.
The Horizon is Moving Nearer does not believe a resolution, nor should it need to. Instead, it acts while “a story, of stories, that seeks to state links across the roots associated with interconnected forms of oppression, ” Clark explains. But , more so, it explores the wider systemic issues occurring within our image ecology and how picture taking is disseminated and consumed. Tasked with a monumental challenge, falling back on our old patterns and conventions is not really an option. To progress requires testing. As Susie Linfield talks about in Cruel Radiance (2010): “Like human rights on their own, this expansive kind of eyesight is not particularly natural however rather, is something we should consciously create. ”