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Study Visit Review: Photomonth East London Photography Festival

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On a rainy Saturday OCA tutor Simon Barber and I, together with twenty-two students visited the East London Photomonth festival. We began with recent OCA graduate Keith Greenough’s exhibition ‘Lifting the Curtain’ at the Townhouse Gallery where Keith gave a vivid and entertaining account of process. Keith’s commitment to his work – driving in to London at 3am, staying in hotels to catch the early light, were reflected in the lovely quality of his prints while artful combinations of image and text – the brief snippets by Charles Booth that hung below the work – gave a deft poetic touch to the documentary project.

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Then a short walk to Drift and the Goldsmiths MA student show at the Truman Brewery, cast as an exploration of contemporary urban environments ‘in a world where the political and socio-economic dimensions of an expanding and mutable urban plexus are in constant flux’. This was not a curated show but an artist’s group show, each photographer responsible for their own space on the wall. Our group discussed Bas Losekoot’s ‘In a Company of Strangers’, whose shot of bearded man with touching hands I, at least, thought a moment of miraculous beauty although with a nagging doubt about the series’ close proximity to Lorca Di Corcia’s ‘Heads’. Goldsmiths student Beatrice Tura was coaxed into talking about her elegant work ‘Terra Firma’, while Tanya Houghton’s ‘A Migrants Tale’ was intriguing. What did it mean, this juxtaposition of a clinical, ritualistic arrangement of objects against humanistic, natural light portraits and anecdotes about food that reminded their subjects of home? We had at least eight interpretations in our group.

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A short stop for refreshments in Spitalfields market and very happy to share with Sarah Deane her Landscape assignment Powder, recently showcased on WeAreOCA, to our final port of call at Rivington Place, home of Autograph and the Syd Shelton Rock Against Racism show. The exhibition began with vintage prints in frames on the first wall, which were then blown up and mounted on foamboard and repeated around the rest of the gallery. This was a good mix – Keith’s solo show, the artists group show and now the institutionally funded and professionally curated show. Syd Shelton is straight representation – a point of view – and judging from some of the reviews it invites reminiscence of the times more than discussion of the photographs themselves. But upstairs, if you got that far, Bruno Boudjelal’s Frantz Fanon seemed much more tentative, more uncertain about the world. To me, these blurred images opposite quotes from Fanon’s ‘Wretched Earth’ were obscure in more ways than one. Even with some prior knowledge of Frantz Fanon I had to do a fair amount of research at home to start to gain some kind of position to Boudjelal’s exhibition.

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We reconvened around several tables in the cozy little café at Rivington Place to discuss our responses to the days viewing. And what is art for if not dialogue? You’re welcome to include links to your own learning log write-ups in comments.

Photos: Robert Bloomfield & Simon Barber


Posted by author: Rob
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