No 4 (88) 2011
October - December

Unimagined Stories

The 7th Photography Biennial - Margins?, comprised of fourteen exhibitions, has been an attempt to answer a question what is the central point of discourse and what are dangerous fringes of this discourse.

Karolina Sikorska

Culture expert, PhD Student of the Adam Mickiewicz University Culture Institute. She lives and works in Poznań.

Karolina Sikorska

THE BIENNIAL EXHIBITIONS HAVE APPROACHED DIFFERENTLY the above issues. I would like to focus on one of them that offered interesting reflections on the status of representations and the values behind them. I mean Margins, a display of situations rooted in difficult, frequently painful experiences of persons entangled in ethnic, national, sex related conflicts... Katarzyna Majak, one of the BRUN group curators, has described the presentation purpose: "{this exhibition} asks questions on the meaning and influence of history and tradition on present times; identifies barriers within nations; indicates borders across our path of everyday survival..."

Artists, invited to participate in the exhibition, originate in various culture zones. Through photography, they show personal and social acts that can be translated into multi layer historical constructions. History and stories, told by the artists, turn into images that reveal various political and cultural types of oppression, determining factors and choices that unwaveringly change the landscape of daily experience and values. This takes place, however, in double optics of representation - on one hand, what is seen on the photos can be approached as a secondary representation of what has already existed on the other - photographs develop their own reality, being relatively independent constructions that can convince one about their importance (a problem of autonomy, a negation of the outer).

Photography is in the position to cover both of these aspects - the mimetic and the performing - taking over experiences and events that happened in reality and adding to them; occasionally in the margin, by way of a comment, a visual metaphor or a collage, as in the works by Hicham Benouhoud (La sale de classe).

This has been also the case of the photographs from the Confrontation series by Szabolcs Barakonyi who presents portraits arranged in ordinary, from a visual point of view moderately appealing locations - outside a house, on a farmland, by a grave. After reading the artist's comment, one learns that the presented characters are either survivors, or relatives of the victims of the Rome massacre in Hungary (2008 and 2009). The photographs by Barakonyi not only illustrate the tragedy suffered by these people, but they say a lot about the photographic medium which produces autonomous representations and simultaneously remains closely related to what had really happened.

One is faced with a similar phenomenon in the video installation and photographs (the Listen series) by Newshy Tavakolian, who - through these media - has expressed a silent complaint, a protest against the ban on public solo and duo performances by lady singers in Shiite Iran. Women, showed in the video installation, mimic singing lip movements, nevertheless they stay dumb. Women featured on the album covers (never recorded) designed by the artist, present the situations impossible to happen in reality (the covers being visual artifacts with no practical function as a package for music records). Nevertheless, the act of photography reveals desires and constructs meanings that might lead to creative autonomy.

Extremely expressive pieces by Vanja Bucan (Invincible City), mysterious photographs by David Farrell (Innocent Landscapes) and lyric works by Tamas Dezso (Here, Anywhere) have been written into the strategy of negotiations between what seems obvious, literal at the first glance, and what is in the margin of the picture or even in its context, indicating an oppressive nature of what appears unambiguous.

The Margins exhibition - exploring fringes, everyday reality which frequently turns out to be shameful, traumatic, deprived of any sense by regimes and oppressive discourse mechanisms - has pointed out not only the photographic medium itself that aspires to get access to the reality and simultaneously creates this reality, revealing what is not obvious there.

Further, this has been a polyphonic narration by a number of artists whose sensitivity has been an evidence of their wish to interfere into the reality, and an opportunity to transform and think over the place and role of the fringes.

"Margins", the exhibition under the 7th Photography Biennial - Margins? the Szyperska Gallery, Poznań, September - October 2011.