Britain's Biggest Photo Biennial - Brighton Photo Biennial 2006

By Caroline Lewis | 05 October 2006
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a black and white photograph showing agrouyp of ladies dressed in ball gowns and sashes

Richard Avedon, The Generals of the Daughters of the American Revolution, DAR Convention, Mayflower Hotel, Washington D.C., October 15, 1963

Exhibitions and events for the second Brighton Photo Biennial start rolling on October 6, with the city’s galleries suddenly packed with stills and movies, monochrome and colour, portraits, photo stories and dramatic installations.

The reach of the biennial is also expanding with Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion, this year hosting a show devoted to Orson Welle’s Voodoo Macbeth.

The whole package has been curated by Gilane Tawadros, who has pulled together a healthy mix of historical, contemporary and newly commissioned photographic and moving image works by an array of artists that range from Walker Evans and Orson Welles to William Eggleston and Steve McQueen.

a sepia toned photograph of a surly unshaven young man

Van Leo, Self-Portrait 1945

The result is a series of exhibitions that as a whole walks a thin line between past and present, fact and fiction and indeed illusion and reality.

"I am delighted to present Curator Gilane Tawadros' stunning, imaginative and international Biennial programme for 2006,” said John Gill, BPB Executive Director.

“This Biennial provides a new context for the reinterpretation of classic bodies of photographic work, alongside new commissions, moving image projects and education programmes.”

The centrepiece exhibition, Nothing Personal, runs at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, until January 7 2007 and takes its name from the Richard Avedon and James Baldwin book, Nothing Personal.

a wide screen film still showing the rear of a large white house set amdist fields

David Claerbout, White House, 2006, Single channel widescreen video projection

The book, published in the USA in 1964, revealed a ‘troubled nation’ with Avedon’s photographs of smiling faces and healthy, affluent families juxtaposed by Baldwin’s hard hitting text.

For him the USA was “settled by a desperate, divided, and rapacious horde of people who were determined to forget their pasts and determined to make money”. Behind the smiles exist ugly cities and ‘unspeakable loneliness’.

Accompanying the central work of Baldwin and Avedon is complementary work by Walker Evans, William Eggleston, Andy Warhol and Paul Fusco

Also open until January 7, the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill will host film screenings as part of an exhibition on the all-black African American production of Macbeth, staged in Harlem in 1936. Directed by Orson Welles, it became known as Voodoo Macbeth.

a close up of a red toned still of a persons eye

Steve McQueen, Charlotte, 2004, 16mm filmprojection

The exhibition explores Welles’ then nascent aesthetic ideas as well as work by his contemporaries Jean Cocteau, Jacques Tourneur and Lee Miller. Later images by the likes of Steve McQueen and Kara Walker are also exhibited that embody similar narratives and compositions.

Other highlights of the season include an installation by Alfredo Jaar at Fabrica (to November 5) and a film to be screened in the Royal Pavilion Gardens.

Jaar’s installation, The Sound of Silence, is inspired by the life of South African Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Kevin Carter whose career was dedicated to covering famine and conflict in his native Africa.

Carter committed suicide in 1994 and the exhibition uses strategies that go beyond simple photographic representation to evoke the horror of the images he captured.

a photograph of an art installation cosnsisting of a rack of flourescent light tubes

Alfredo Jaar, The Sound of Silence, 2006, Installation veiw

Fiona Tan’s film, A Lapse of Memory, brings the inside out with a film about a disturbed elderly man living in the Pavilion and unable to discern past from present.

The film will be shown over several evening screenings onto the exterior of the Royal Pavilion (showing until October 29 see the Brighton Photo Biennial website for screening times).

The Gardner Arts Centre is taking an unusual angle on Walker Evans, with a collection of photographs the American documentary photographer took on a trip to England in 1973 (to November 26).

Amongst the works on show are familiar images of Brighton’s Palace Pier and Royal Pavilion, with a selection of Evan’s more famous depictions of poverty stricken rural America in the 1930s Depression.

a film still showing an elderly man sat on the floor of a large ornate room with oriental gold and red wallpaper

Fiona Tan, A Lapse of Memory, 2006, Filmed in the Royal Pavilion, Brighton

The Biennial also boasts a series of ongoing education projects that are aimed at encouraging a wide and diverse range of people to enjoy, engage with and participate in the visual arts.

In addition to the core events, the Photo Fringe has a number of exciting things happening around town from October 6-29. Tidy Street in the North Laine is being transformed with portraits of its residents in their windows and Greg Daville plays with the architecture of suburbia in Urbicide/Suburbicide at the Start Gallery, 8 Church Street.

An intriguing fringe event, and one firmly planted in the wireless comms world of the 21st century, is Bio-tracking. The artists behind it asked people to download a piece of software called Socialight to their phones, enabling you to receive text messages, sound files and images as you wander around sites like the West Pier, the Fishing Museum and the Old Steine.

Look for the Bio-tracking group on www.socialight.com for a map and more information.

And if you don’t make it to an exhibition, an exhibition might choose you to view its works… Reaching out to the book-borrowing public, artist Rachel Cohen has hidden 300 original photographs between the leaves of books in the Jubilee Library.

For full listings, go to the Brighton Photo Biennial website and www.photofringe.org.

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