Peckham24 is back this weekend with a physical programme featuring function exploring acts of demonstration and activism

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Headline displays include the work of Asa Johannesson, the Archive of Public Protests and Sofia Karim

Launched in 2016, Peckham 24 forms a fundamental element of the photography bonanza that arrives in the capital every year alongside Photo London. Organised as a nonprofit festival, plus featuring work by contemporary and emerging artists, it is an event with its finger around the pulse – even when it cannot take place. Last year, the Peckham 24 founders, Vivienne Gamble and Jo Dennis, were busy preparing a new edition – themed ‘Freedom of Expression and Protest’ – when Covid-19 struck and they were forced to put their plans on ice.

“As we were in lockdown, protests were erupting around the world – Black Lives Matter, then later new angles of the MeToo movement, ” recalls Gamble. “I sensed very much that if we could have got put on our festival, it would have been completely on point. ”

Installation view of On Rhythms by Mel Bles at Peckham 24 in 2019.

“It’s a declaration from Peckham 24 that we’re in solidarity along with BLM, MeToo and other protest movements. ”

Vivienne Gamble

The protests still rally today and, this year, Peckham 24 is back ongoing to engage with social problems and the act of protesting under a new theme: Solidarity. “It’s a statement through Peckham 24 that we are in solidarity with BLM, MeToo and other protest movements, ” says Gamble. “The idea of solidarity feels like a positive way to state our support and, while these are certainly serious subjects, we want the particular festival to feel optimistic. It has always felt charged with a positive energy, plus there is a positive energy for making an impact in these movements. ”

Looking out Looking In © Asa Johannesson.

Spread across the Bussey Building and Copeland Park, a south London cultural hub, Peckham 24 takes place both inside and out. This includes the particular expansive Copeland Gallery, Gamble’s own Noticed Fifteen , and the nice Safe Houses – two Victorian terraced houses standard of London, but actively dilapidated. This year, Copeland Photo gallery will host two subject shows, including a film simply by Tracey Emin titled Exactly why I Never Became the Dancer, which features shots of Emin’s hometown, Margate, plus a voiceover describing her teenage years and awful treatment by a jeering team of men at a dance competition. The film had been shot in 1995 but, Gamble points out, it talks eloquently to the current moment.

“I think there’s a whole brand new audience of younger ladies with a completely different sense of right and wrong regarding male behaviour and what a lady will accept, ” says Gamble. What is inspiring is that Emin was already there 26 years ago, she points out, “sticking 2 fingers up to the men who had been degrading her”, leaving Margate for London, becoming a good artist, and ending the girl film joyfully dancing. “I’m really excited about showing this particular film, ” says Gamble. “It’s loaded with important communications. ”

Demonstration against the Constitutional Court’s choice to restrict the abortion regulation, Warsaw © Agata Kubis, Courtesy of Archive of Public Protests.

Copeland Gallery will also host a large group show that Peckham twenty-four is putting out being an open call to curators, inviting proposals “within that banner of solidarity, of BLM or MeToo or even anything else that gets within there”. Seen Fifteen will be taken over by another 3rd party curator, Monica Allende, who is putting together an exhibition with young artists from Hk – Caleb Fung, Liao Jiaming, O’Young Moli, Julian, Tang Kwong San, Yuen Nga Chi, and Wong Wei-him. Hong Kong erupted in protest in 2019 plus 2020 over a proposed extradition bill and the ongoing battle for democracy. The performers here reflect both upon recent events and the region’s wider social climate. We are going to also see headline displays from Asa Johannesson plus her series, The Queering of Photography ; The particular Archive of Public Protests , spearheaded by Polish photographer Rafał Milach ; Black Men Are Good by Aida Silverstri; and Sofia Karim’s Turbine Bagh collective project.

Opening night at Copeland Gallery during Peckham twenty-four in 2018 © Imogen Freeland.

Entry to the gallery shows will be free of charge but ticketed to allow for social distancing. Peckham 24 may also include a hefty outdoor component – including performances and projections in the large onsite courtyard – to help along with safety. It is something the event has done before and it will body larger this year, partly away from necessity owing to Covid-19, but additionally because it’s a great way to show work. “I really buzz off photographic experiences that are almost immersive and transient, ” says Gamble. “They’ve been and gone, and they remain imprinted in your mind – there’s something magical about this.

“Our purpose has always been to provide space to pieces or even artists who are making work that would be difficult to encounter at an art fair – to demonstrate stories coming out of the photographic world that might not be ones you can buy and put on your wall space, ” she continues. “The idea has always been that, because Photo London is happening simultaneously, hopefully there’s a bigger target audience in the city that’s concentrating on photography. So we can use that opportunity and make sure there’s something excellent on the fringe. ”

While Covid-19 restrictions will mean a limited number of foreign visitors this year, Gamble expectations that showing work outside will allow more engagement from the local community. The outside space is a thoroughfare, so Gamble is certainly optimistic that Peckham twenty-four will also be encountered by passers-by. “Maybe they’re going to supper, or to church, because there are lots of different things happening in the Bussey Building, ” says Bet. “But they won’t need to step through a gallery doorway, and I hope that helps provide people in. ” 

Peckham 24 opens tonight, Friday 10 September and runs until Sunday 12 September. Find out more details here

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance reporter who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The particular FT Weekend Magazine, Innovative Review, The Calvert Record, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Before you go freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP to get 15 years. She has furthermore curated exhibitions for organizations such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy

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