Brighton Photo Fringe offers panoramic scope with 112 exhibitions around South Coast

By Mark Sheerin | 11 October 2012
Colour photo of two identical women regarding one another in a domestic interior
Jinkyun Ahn, Confrontation 1© Jinkyun Ahn. Image courtesy Phoenix Brighton
Exhibition Review: Brighton Photo Fringe, various venues, Brighton, until November 18 2012

As you thumb your way through the 64-page brochure, it is hard to believe that Brighton Photo Fringe is not the main event. The festival comprises 112 exhibitions in 60 venues, and Phoenix Brighton, BPF’s hub, is certainly one of the best spaces in the city.

Here is where you will also find a show by Jinkyun Ahn as impressive as any in town. The South Korean artist has photographed his parents in pyjamas in a high rise flat. From time to time he invades their space with mirrors and screens. But such conceptual apparatus does nothing to dispel the sad air of mortality which forms a patina on these high gloss prints.

One of the less likely places in the city is a churchyard out front of the artist led gallery. Normally the province of dog owners, this currently houses boxy all-weather display units for a show by Richard Glynn. The photographer has been shooting the ongoing building work at the Bowes Museum, County Durham. The result is also strangely mournful.

It doesn’t seem like two whole years since BPF teamed up with Brighton Photo Biennial to occupy the disused co-op building on London Road. For mystifying reasons, this vast indoor space has been out of bounds to exhibitors this year.

Instead, what we have are a couple of small exhibitions in the windows, including one which celebrates the character and characters of this scuzzy end of Brighton. The A to Z of London Road is an adept piece of street photography, but of possibly little interest to those from out of town.

Much more urgent and sadly universal is a show on the edge of Kemptown which goes by the title Having our say Too. The venue may just be a café (The Red Roaster), but the theme is as dark as coffee dregs.

All work here is by young people who have suffered sexual exploitation and deals with the pain of their former situations along with the triumph of their having found a visual voice. This show fits well with BPF’s culture of curated participation. Leave the technical tours de force to the Biennial proper, here come the raw news bulletins from the margins of society.

Another thing which a Fringe event can do is pack in more than a dozen artists to a relatively small venue. Brighton Media Centre teems with 16 different shows. One depicts female boxers, another black cowboys.

It is inspiring to reflect how many serious projects are out there. So BPF may not have the big names of its parent event, but its vision is broad and powerful.

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.
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