Migration to contemporary Europe and within its borders, the invisibility and intangibility of digital data, and urgent environmental issues. The sixteenth edition of Krakow Photomonth weaves together narratives and images in order to interrogate the ‘space of flows.’ Through the rise of the network society, a real virtuality became visible, making us aware that we are no longer just living in a ‘space of places.’
The festival, one of Europe’s biggest and most important photography-related ventures, is also one of the largest recurring events dedicated to visual arts in Poland. The Main Programme of this year’s Photomonth was put together by Iris Sikking, an independent curator, film editor, and photography historian. In her work, she has focused primarily on photography and video art, which she considers to be complementary media.
Main Programme – Space of Flows. Framing an Unseen Reality
The programme derives its thematic approach from the concept of the ‘space of flows’ as set forth by the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells in his seminal 1996 volume The Rise of the Network Society. Two decades later, one could say that we exist in exactly such a society: a networked one, defined as an open, borderless, and intangible entity, in constant flux and an ever shifting shape. It is our shared experience that we are all part of an enmeshed whole that provokes and confronts us on a near-daily basis with events unfolding in faraway locales. As we take note of them via our screens in the form of a tweet, an image, or a video they evade traditional geographic boundaries and notions of localness. And the speed with which people, goods, information, and pollutants are distributed and disseminated is so rapid that it is sometimes impossible to distinguish between catalyst and consequence. Moreover, how should we judge a message on our screen? Can we really see and understand what is going on?
To distinguish between the myriad focuses of the artists’ projects, they have been divided into three chapters:
- migration to and within contemporary Europe;
- the invisibility and intangibility of digital data;
- urgent environmental issues.
Conflicts, unemployment, and lack of prospects have forced untold thousands of people to leave behind their homes, belongings, and loved ones. Refugee or migrant, they undertake an often perilous journey to promised lands where they find themselves at risk of being detained and targeted by the rhetoric of populist political movements. Europe finds itself divided between the liberal values of tolerance and the nostalgia of those who crave a return to a fantasised past in which ‘everything was known.’
Meanwhile, in an etheric elsewhere, our data hover invisibly in an artificial ‘cloud,’ or else whizz in the blink of an eye through cables snaking underground and undersea. In truth, the vast majority of us don’t have a clue what happens to our data after their transformation into bits and cascading scrolls of zeroes and ones. Computer programmers, cryptocurrency experts, and bitcoin speculators have little interest in making their shadowy realm more transparent or comprehensible to the layperson. The rest of us are left in the dark as to what exactly happens to the digitised facsimiles of ourselves, once rendered and uploaded. What subcutaneous layer, for example, do we unwittingly expose when we pass through an airport’s body scanner?
And although ‘wild nature’ has been reduced in many latitudes to a contradiction in terms, it is still a quality we seek out and yearn to experience. In some regions of the world in which a highly cultivated natural environment is mistaken for its original state, we have been disrupting natural processes for ages. Heavy industries such as mining, the presence of nuclear power plants, and what goes under the name of forest management have had a profound, and in many cases irreversibly deleterious effect on the well-being, and long-term vitality of both human and animal habitats.
“The visual artists taking part in this edition of Photomonth are unique in their ability to unravel the present, while simultaneously accounting for the past and imagining possible futures,” – says Iris Sikking. – “In the heavily charged image culture of our contemporary societies, we are in need of artists who are able to frame complex realities in ways that push us out of our comfort zones, and that motivate us to reflect upon our own deep-seated and perhaps unacknowledged anxieties and attitudes toward the unknown, the unseen, and the overlooked, in our own geographical or virtual backyards. The frame and focus that the visual artists offer on this ‘unseen reality’ works as an interlude, and distinguishes a fragment of its pristine or proposed reality.”
Edmund Clark, Mark Curran, Agata Grzybowska (doc! #42), Antoinette de Jong & Robert Knoth, Eva Leitolf, Michał Łuczak, Rune Peitersen, Agnieszka Rayss (doc! #5 & cd! #3), Jules Spinatsch, Katja Stuke & Oliver Sieber, and Salvatore Vitale are only a few of the artists that will present their projects at Krakow Photomonth, projects intended to encourage the viewers to broaden their thinking and transcend their prejudices. Their works will provoke a more deliberate, flexible, and empathetic response to the problems faced by humankind. The festival’s key themes will include tensions, a proclivity for detachment, and fear-induced exclusion of the unknown, the inability to impose any semblance of control on the mass migration of people, the movement of information and substances, in both – the real and the virtual world.
Another, equally important part of Krakow Photomonth is the ShowOFF section, which will feature debut projects selected in an open competition by renowned experts in visual arts: Filip Ćwik (doc! #18), Karol Hordziej, Jenny Nordquist, and Karolina Puchała-Rojek. The eight winners whose projects will be showcased at the collective exhibition hosted at the Tytano Foundation premises on Dolnych Młynów Street in Krakow include: Valeria Cherchi (Italy), Antonina Gugała (Poland), Laura Ociepa (DEBUTS 2016; Poland), Rafa Raigón (Spain), Ksenia Sidorova (Russia), Jakub Stępień (Poland), Anna Tiessen (Germany), and Marta Wódz (Poland).
The events accompanying Photomonth are also an important part of the festival. Particular notable is the series of discussion panels focused on the three main themes of the festival. The panels will be staffed by artists, the curator of the Main Programme, as well as specialists representing the festival’s three main thematic fields. The ancillary event programme will be rounded out with book premieres, workshops, presentations, film screenings, and curator-led tours.
The Portfolio Review is an opportunity for up-and-coming artists to have their works reviewed by renowned specialists in their fields. Involvement with the Review is also an opportunity, particularly for ambitious artists, to establish a valuable network of contacts that could lead to future collaborations and gigs. Every year, around one hundred artists submit their work for review, of whom a final thirty are chosen and invited to Krakow to showcase their work in the Review.
Krakow Photo Fringe is a democratic platform showcasing a range of interesting photography-oriented events from the entire Małopolska region that take place in parallel with Photomonth. Photo Fringe attendees will have the opportunity to see works created by widely renowned and acclaimed artists as well as the rising stars of the art world. Krakow Photo Fringe offers artists an opportunity to showcase their work before a broader audience, while the audience, in turn, gets a very up-to-date and comprehensive look at the state of modern photography. Check the full list of this year’s Krakow Photo Fringe exhibitions @ www.krakowfringe.com
Symposium Why Exhibit? Provoking Questions About Exhibiting (Extended) Photography provides a platform for discussion of developments within the photographic medium and how these impact artistic, theoretical, and curatorial knowledge and practice. All the symposium participants, including Lisa Barnard, Edmund Clark, Nicòlo Degiorgis, Doris Gassert, Taco Hidde Bakker, Michał Łuczak, Krzysztof Pijarski, Karolina Puchała-Rojek, Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger, Agnieszka Rayss, Susan Schuppli, Iris Sikking, Jules Spinatsch, Anne Tellgren, and Lars Willumeit, aim to challenge, reassess, and diversify the specific grammar produced by presenting photo-based works. Through focusing not only on museums, but also on public spaces, catalogues, and digital environments, the symposium proposes current forms of exhibiting and curating photographic images and art as a discursive space – especially one perceived as an arena that reacts to major social phenomena, and could potentially act as a starting point for intellectual and emotional knowledge production.
More info and detailed calendar of the festival @ photomonth.com
COMING SOON: Our recommendations for selected exhibitions from the 2018 Krakow Photomonth’s Main Programme. Stay tuned!
Krakow Photomonth 2018
@ Cracow (Poland)
May 25 – June 24, 2018
If countries could be theatrical genres, then today’s Republic of Macedonia should be pictured as an operetta with elements of a surrealist tragicomedy. For the purpose of its staging a proper setting already exists: the city of Skopje, which is, by coincidence, also the country’s capital.
Everything is illusive here: huge sailing ships remain attached to the bottom of the shallow river. They are not going anywhere as they are made of concrete. Monumental ancient buildings are nothing more than just plaster dummies covering grey facades of edifices that are 50 years old at most. Monuments spring up like mushrooms, but to commemorate whom – nobody knows. Officially, the 24-metre monument erected in Skopje’s main square in an anonymous ‘Warrior on a Horse.’ Who is he? Who did he fight with? What army did he lead? Nobody would say it loud, but everybody knows that it’s Alexander III of Macedon, the legendary ancient king, whose legacy is a key issue also for the Greeks; or maybe for the Greeks above all. They treat all Macedonia’s references to Philip and Alexander as blatant provocations and until today disagree for their north-eastern neighbour to use the name ‘Macedonia.’
Michał Siarek’s Alexander documents short-lived yet turbulent history of an attempt to coin a new national myth uniting this ever divided, ethnically and religion-wise, Balkan country. Trying to cover up its passivity regarding internal and external challenges and difficulties, the populist Macedonian government (2006–2016) decided to bid on a symbolic gesture: the politics of memory daringly combining today’s modern Macedonia with the ancient leader Alexander the Great. Their project turned out to be not only absurd but very dangerous: in response and protest against the politics of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Greek nationalists (who claim exclusive rights to everything related to the name ‘Macedonia’) managed to gather crowds larger than those that took to the streets of Athens in 2011 to express anger following the country’s debt crisis.
In his project, Michał Siarek compiles two aspects of this myth-creating effort: first of them being an architectural transformation following the ‘antiquisation’ policy, which wants to cover modernist buildings with some ancient-like facades, with the second – transcription of the so-called ‘tapes,’ overheard conversations of the politicians from the ruling party (national populists). The whole thing looks like a pastiche of a mediocre operetta: on the one hand we have kitschy and sloppily assembled decorations, and on the other – real opinions of cynical creators of this play (politicians), who don’t even try to hide the fact that they don’t believe in even one act of their performance.
Tapes played a big role in the spectacular fall of the populists. The current government is slowly dismantling all theatre decorations erected by their predecessors. Pseudo-marble facades and monuments are disappearing, and above all – the Alexander is slowly gone. The motorway leading from Skopje to the border with Greece has already had its name changed from ‘Alexander the Great’ to ‘Friendship.’ Satirical photomontage on the Internet shows a damaged sign that says ‘Former Alexander the Great Motorway,’ which sounds just like ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’ as the country was called for some time. The country still remains without an official, universally accepted name of its own.
The exhibition is accompanied by the premiere of the Michał Siarek’s book Alexander: Forging Utopia, being a story based on the relationship between politics, history and culture, centred around the construction of a national myth in the (Former Yugoslav) Republic of Macedonia, a state with no name, fixated on the dispute about origins so distant that they may have never existed at all.
Michał Siarek (b. 1991) | based in Łódź (Poland) | documentary photographer and graduate of the Łódź Film School’s Faculty of Photography | laureate of many awards, including The New East Photo Prize (UK), BZ WBK Press Foto (Poland), and Fidal Youth Photography Award (France).
Michał Siarek – ALEXANDER
@ IFF Gallery (Fort Mokotow, 99 Racławicka St., Warsaw, Poland)
Opening reception: May 18 at 7.00 PM
The exhibition will be open to the public between May 19 and July 8, 2018
The Michał Siarek exhibition is a part of accompanying events of the 2018 Krakow Photomonth Festival.
The Open Space exhibition is an initiative of graduates of the Warsaw School of Photography and Graphic Design. It consists of 50 works of seventeen photographers summarising their current creative path. Each photographer experiences the surrounding reality in different way, making the exhibition very sensitive and diversified. Although internally so diverse, all works share a common denominator: “I think, therefore I photograph. I photograph, therefore I feel.”
“For many years, I walked through life with my eyes closed, wandering between known reality and unconscious longing,” – says Matylda Rosłaniec, one of the photographers, explaining the exhibition idea. – “Despite the uncertainty, I take the camera, my senses sharpen. I am opening myself. I need photography to shape the world the way I see it. This is my Open Space.”
Exhibited photographers: Witold Boczewski, Paweł Brzuszek, Joanna Frukacz, Karolina Komosa, Anna Koperska, Magda Lassota, Aga Lewandowska, Żaneta Lipiec, Beata Mazurek, Magdalena Michalik, Matylda Rosłaniec, Paulina Rutyna, Luiza Sierpińska, Jakub Sosnowski, Beata Sterczewska, Anna Tomaka-Magdoń, and Kasia Zawodzińska.
More info @ www.wystawaprzestrzenotwarta.com (in Polish language version only)
The Open Space exhibition is organised under doc! photo magazine patronage.