I’ve had a proper jaunt around the country over the last couple of weeks. I’ve landed with new motivation for new things, more travelling and most importantly I want new technology so I can travel, write and share at the same time.
The Biennial was interesting work, but stiff and ‘art’. The theme of the biennial is Agents of Change: Photography and the Politics of Space, already a weighty title. The curators Celia Davis and Ben Burbridge have done good things.
The work at the University – Uneven Development Corrine Silva and Jason Larkin, provoke a discussion on authority and money’s influence and control over people, often poor and subject to the whims of power and influence. Laying out the inequality between gated communities and the people who live around them, isn’t an unfamiliar sight, but there is always horror at the vision of waste, protest, luxury and gated paranoia.
Control Order House Edmund Clark, an installation of images and correspondence was interesting. Clark has been granted access to a control order house, a residence of someone suspected of terrorist activities, effectively under house arrest by the Home Office. Clark is unable to take images that can in any way identify the area or person and his images are under strict control by the Home Office. They are large scale works of the building itself, still lives of the everyday objects scattered around the house. Overall the work has a feeling of questioning the person who lives there, you naturally try to find empathy and identify with them in some way. Clark has highlighted the humanity in the mundane objects, a pot of Dream Cream and some toilet cleaner on a bathroom window. It could be anyone, anywhere, but the knowledge that it’s a person who has been identified as a danger to our society; who has put them in this place? What was their path to arrest? What influence does a faceless bureaucrat have over this person and have they unwittingly influenced each other’s actions in the past?
The film Five Thousand Feet is the Best Omer Fast. I didn’t get to see too much of this piece. It was in a completely black room and was impossible to move around. I got too disorientated to be able to stay in the space, so unfortunately had to go, something that many people who fell over each other commented on. The title refers to the ideal height for a drone strike and the little I did get to see was chilling; the drone operator’s commentary over footage of the everyday, showing how removed they are from the people they are tasked with killing.
Geographies of Seeing Trevor Paglan was so beautiful. The Other Night Sky used images from amateur satellite watchers presented as new constellations from space. Limit Telephotography Paglen adapted super-strength telescopes, normally used to shoot distant planets, to reveal top-secret U.S. governmental sites, sometimes 65 miles away from his camera; covert bases, so remote they cannot be seen by an unaided civilian eye from any point on Earth.
In Who’s Streets? images of protests presented on the streets from the local Argus archive, showing how little has changed, protests are still fought, still badly policed, still frustrating and still necessary.
Still the Fringe seemed more complete. It was huge and we only saw a tiny portion of it. I’m not advocating quantity over quality, but it seemed to be all the more playful and engaging against the stiffness of the biennial. There was public interaction through the online Eco Focus and there seemed to be constant talks, workshops, parties, discussions and reviews. We visited Phoenix, the hub of the festival and this held more work than the whole of the biennial. There was space for people to experiment and play with their work, which seems to be the point of festivals.