The 18th Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography explores the theme of hybridization in contemporary photography. As a highly adaptable medium that records reality but also employs digital technology, photography lends itself to cross-breeding, making it an ideal instrument for expressing the challenges of a globalized world.
The works of the photographers brought together this year show the collision of heterogeneous elements and the mingling of cultures. They testify to the fragmentation of the individual, but also to an economy of collaboration. The moving image as well reveals the contradictions of reality, enters into a dialogue with literature, and interacts with the viewer.
Carlos Spottorno’s series “China Western” is emblematic of an intermingled world in which different cultures, societies and religions exist side by side in everyday life. The images show the situation in Xinjiang, the westernmost province of China, which is rich in oil and gas and borders on eight other countries. The native Uighurs, who are Muslims of Turkic origin, are demanding independence. A striking syncretism can be seen in the video “Religious Aerobics” by Bouillon Group: the exercise routine that is carried out is based on the ritual gestures of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions. “Büropflanze” by Saskia Groneberg reveals another unexpected encounter: the encounter with nature at the office, where employees leave the task of humanizing a depersonalized work world to their desk plants. The unemployed people in “Kamagasaki” by Eduardo Cebollero are likewise out of step with their environment. The series shows an employment office and its surroundings in the Japanese city of Kamagasaki, public spaces populated only by unemployed lingerers. To pass the time while they wait, or simply because of lack of money, they radically transform these spaces by using them for their private activities. By contrast, in the images of “Silent Outlooks” by Gregory Collavini, different human activities are separated from each other by noise reduction walls, which create a landscape that is totally controlled. Yet in Natan Dvir’s “Coming Soon,” it is difficult to determine where the life of the city begins and where the representations of advertising end: the careful composition of the images subtly reveals instead how the one intrudes on the other.
In his series “Moi avec des filles,” Romain Mader continues his pursuit of girls, this time at the Geneva Motor Show. His selfies, taken in the style of holiday photos, are meant to serve as proof of relationships that are more than just ephemeral, but he seems more like an intruder imposing himself in the shot. The virtual world is unsurpassed when it comes to how the individual gets fitted into a format; to remedy this situation, the “YOUNIC – FaceBOOK” project by Eva-Maria Raab individualizes the standard profile image that Facebook assigns when no picture has been uploaded. 100 Facebook users were invited to send their profile pictures to participate in this hybridization of the official symbol. With “In the Woods,” Camille Scherrer invites visitors to an interactive experience in which they become an integral part of a graphical virtual universe of plants and animals. Collective creation is the very subject of the work of the trio JocJonJosch. Their video “Beast Mutation” lets us see the physical incarnation of the process of participatory reflection: a hybrid creature made up of individuals joined in an unstable equilibrium. It is perhaps because he wanted to be many people at once that the subject of “Dear Clark,” lived a life made up of false identities. Sara-Lena Maierhofer uses photographs and other documents in her attempt to reconstruct his multiple lives; each new piece of information gets added to the rest, yet gaps remain. Identity is also the subject of investigation in the series “Eukalyptus & Vegas” by Michal Florence Schorro & Prune Simon-Vermot. The two photographers start from their personal experiences to trace an immaterial landscape in which identity and culture intermingle.
The subject of “Offscreen” by Gabriela Löffel is real, but it seems more like fiction. This video installation tells the story of a voyage by a Western tourist seeking intense experiences in war zones of Iran and Afghanistan. The voiceover and the scenes filmed on a sound stage reinforce the sense of a gap between reality and its depiction. The video “34°8'8.59"N | 118°20'48.61"O” by Swann Thommen takes us on an exploration from above (with the help of Google Earth) of a real location that represents a fictional scene: the set of Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” at Universal film studios. The video “Grosse kleine Welt” by Marie José Burki turns its gaze on the city of Biel/Bienne to create a portrait of the writer Robert Walser. Contemporary images of the city are accompanied by texts of Walser read in a voiceover, joining the past and the present, the large and the small, the close and the far.
The series “Vertigo” by Fabian Unternährer works in an associative manner. In the images from various locations, the unusual is hidden in the heart of the banal. They tell different stories depending on how they are exhibited and on the viewer’s personal reading. The diptychs that make up the video “Doppelt und dreifach umrundet” by Livia di Giovanna also work by association. The three-dimensional structures of industrial installations are filmed at a low angle and laid flat in the composite images, producing new geometrical shapes.
Stephen Gill conducts experiments: in “Talking to Ants,” he puts objects inside his camera to play with effects of scale. Whereas Stephen Gill makes his intervention before taking the photo, Oscar Muñoz intervenes afterwards: in “Cíclope,” he plunged images into moving water, causing them to disappear from the paper, but to persist materially in liquid form.
The sound guides the gaze
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