EMOP Berlin 2023 — Selections
Many of you most probably don’t know that Conceptual Projects started in Berlin almost 4 years ago. The German capital is a fascinating place if you work in the creative sector and being surrounded by galleries and independent venues was the root for this platform. Berlin is full of energy and countless initiatives that feed its unique art scene, standing out internationally without losing its principles and its particular indie vibe.
One of these initiatives, without a doubt, is the European Month of Photography, the largest biennial festival dedicated to photography. This is a very special edition as it marks the 10th year anniversary. As in previous years, the festival involves institutions, galleries, project spaces and independent artists that contribute to the open format of the festival that allow visitors to build their own routes around the city.
Curated by German-Korean artist Florian Bong-Kil Grosse, Photography as a Performative Process at AFF Galerie presented three artists that share a common understanding of photography. In general terms and for all of them, photography is subject to action. This is fundamental as it marks the starting point to understand the capabilities that photography has to generate participation.
If we take a look at the past, photography was, together with video, fundamentally used to document performance. But sooner than later, photographers began to acknowledge its participatory qualities. The exhibition shows three different points of view. From one side, Sanne van den Elzen focuses on universal gestures through photographic sequences. Blindwalk by Florian Bong-Kil Grosse takes place in a deserted city where viewer and subject share a complex relationship. The video sculpture by Yvon Chabrowski is called Afterimage / Protest and shows people posing almost motionless and grouping themselves into living images. The investigations from these artists accentuate the creation process as part of the aesthetic experience.
Being restrained during the pandemic made everyone reconsider a lot of topics that didn’t seem to be really important due to our fast-paced lives. For Vanja Bučan it was a decisive moment to rethink about what it means to be a mother and the role of women in the home.
Her practice consists of carefully constructed photo collages. The images usually show complex environments where hands and arms emerge to interact with the constructed landscape. In Birds of Paradise, Vanja Bučan focuses specifically on domestic spaces and the oppressive role that women have with it. The series is a personal analysis of a complex social association that Bučan presents with her characteristic aesthetic, subtlety and humour.
Persons Projects presents Fressen (Gorging) by Polish artist and performer Katarzyna Kozyra. Alongside a series of photographs, the exhibition includes a video work of the documentary footage filmed in 2021 during the performance with the same title at Warsaw’s Teatr Powszechny. This performance got inspiration from an important political event that occurred in 1475 popularly known as the ‘Landshut Wedding’. Katarzyna centred as the object of study, the feast of this arranged marriage which happened to be decisive for German-Polish history and established a common heritage between both countries.
The artist represents a controversial figure for the Polish conservative affiliates as her performance challenges their traditional boundaries. In her performances, Kozyra likes to involve the audience in what’s happening. Fressen remarks the importance of food culture and how decisive it is when it comes to solidifying social connections despite language barriers or political convictions. The fact that this exhibition is taking place in Germany gives hope to build bridges between the German and Polish audiences through art and culinary cultures.
Nina Röder’s series starts in the Czech town of Marienbad where her ancestors were from. Together with her family, Nina used to visit the spa at the Bayrischer Hof Hotel. Her great-grandfather used to work as a concierge before World War II and this created in her a particular relationship with that place.
The images, surrounded by a nostalgic overtone, explore individual and collective identities departing from this specific location which is directly related with Nina’s family heritage. Some of the images show her family members posing, always maintaining this neo-kitsch aesthetic in consonance with the place.
One of the highlights of EMOP 2023 is the solo debut of Anastasia Samoylova at C/O Berlin with her show titled Floridas. Bright pink and warm images outlining beaches, palm trees and alligators, reflect a superficial layer in which the artist focuses her attention. Using the state of Florida as a backdrop, Anastasia put her eye in all the assumptions, idiosyncrasies and ultimately, its contradictions.
A paradisiacal dream that clashes with the actual political and climate crisis. Floridas portrays not just the extremely polarized social situation in the US, but also references the multiple identities that conform one of the most populated states in the country. Taking as a model the traditional American street photographers, Anastasia integrates techniques from commercial photography, pointing out these issues from a visual and technical point of view.
Hashem Shakeri adopts a genuine documentary attitude to portray the reality of Iranian society. Being based in Tehran turned him into a witness to numerous changes in people’s perception of their reality. A frustrating situation of a world that was in the middle of a global pandemic, dealing with an alarming climate crisis and women taking over the streets of the city to reclaim their rights, were the catalyst for a necessary questioning of the actual political and social landscape.
In an exhibition that combines cityscapes and still lifes, Hashem Shakeri raises numerous questions about all the preconceived notions about Iranians including its culture, society and politics. These works show not only the restrictions and contrasts in the society, but how these affect human relationships under difficult circumstances such as life in exile or inequality.
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Juan Blasco — Founder & Curator of Conceptual Projects