CAPTURED: A review of Rainmaker’s Native American photography exhibition

5 March – 30 May 2015 This article is published in Trebuchet Magazine. I was the Assistant Curator for this exhibition.

'Nikki' by Cara Romero

‘Nikki’ by Cara Romero

‘Captured’ is a groundbreaking exhibition at Rainmaker Gallery, Bristol, in which contemporary Native American photographers shed new light on both the uses of photography and indigenous American life. Together, the six artists represent eight different tribes and each have very distinctive styles and techniques. Their contributions consist of close-up black-and-white portraits, composite photographs woven together, sepia images that are so clear and detailed they look akin to etchings, compositional recreations of famous film scenes, and even a ‘talking’ tintype. This makes for an eclectic mixture of work, although the pieces are united by the artists’ desires to have Native people assert themselves as powerfully present individuals. The bold and often colourful images challenge preconceived notions of American Indians conjured by popular non-Native photographers, such as Edward Curtis (1868-1952), who have fixed in time romanticised ideas about indigenous life. So by presenting work where Native people themselves hold the cameras, this exhibition provides a much-needed reassessment of photography relating to American Indians and their relationships with the photographic lens. It is particularly important for revealing that in reality, their tribal cultures are continually evolving and are no less authentic today than in the past. This is a vast project for Rainmaker Gallery to communicate in its first ever photography exhibition held in its productive twenty-five year history of exhibiting contemporary Native American art. But there is no doubt that the gallery has achieved its unique and important aims.  Continue reading

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Josephine Pryde exhibition at the Arnolfini

Arnolfini gallery guideI am part of the Young Arnolfini, an arts collective for young people in Bristol that works closely with the Arnolfini gallery. In response to the current exhibition at this institution, I decided to write a ‘reading list’ to collect together the literature it made me think about or that could be set in dialogue with it. This turned into more of a reflection piece. The section on hands is published in the Arnolfini gallery guide, and I have turned the other two parts into audio guides in collaboration with the rest of the Young Arnolfini group.

 

Selected reading list for Josephine Pryde’s exhibition, ‘These are just things I say, they are not my opinions’

Photography and Technology

The Image Culture in which we live has been foreseen by many writers, including Guy Debord with his 1967 book, The Society of The Spectacle. Moholy Nagy also predicted the power of images over the whole of society in his essay and theory, The New Vision, 1989. He states, “The illiterate of the future will be the person ignorant of the use of the camera as well as the pen”.  Continue reading

The Press Photography of Red Vienna 1929 – 1938: An interview

Published on the UCL Art Museum BlogHelen Cobby interviews the researchers of the Red Vienna project, Eva Branscome and Catalina Mejia, before their Pop-Up Display and Lecture on 12th Nov.

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

This event is based round American press photographs depicting social housing estates during the turbulent inter-war years in Vienna. The photographs record three specific epochs within this time frame, from the building of the social houses to the take-over of Austria by the Nazis. The interview below includes Eva’s and Catalina’s thoughts about the development of their project, the active role of the photographs in the manipulation of historical events, as well as the importance of new photographic technologies emerging at the time and new relations between image and caption that this brings.

How would you summarise some of the fundamental debates posed by these press photographs? And what social constructions do you think the photographs specifically add to, or help create?

Eva: The first lot of photographs I have document the fantastic socialist housing projects that took place in Vienna at the end of the 1920s. The government realised it had a problem with overcrowding and people being homeless after the First World War. These housing projects addressed issues with families, and with children – such as not having a place to play, and being forced into crime. It was believed that by giving families decent homes, society could be changed and people could be made happier and more productive. These housing projects produced great excitement internationally by experimenting with Socialism through architecture and thinking about how it could change the world.  Continue reading

Jacqueline Donachie: Weight, Susan’s Eyes and Winter Trees 2008

Friday Focus leafletThis is an article I wrote after giving a talk about the artist and her work at one of the Leamington Spa Gallery’s ‘Friday Focus’ talks

Donachie’s work “Weight, Susan’s Eyes and Winter Trees 2008” is a recent acquisition of The Leamington Art Gallery and is an important and thought-provoking piece to have in their collection. It stands out in the gallery because it is so different to the other pieces on display: it is an installation, and is modern and minimalist in its use of media, techniques and presentation. It helps to raise and expand important debates such as the interaction between science and art, the relationship between the art object and the viewer, and ideas about the politics of representation and interpretation.

This work is also captivating because of the refreshing and unusual way it focuses on the genetic disorder Muscular Dystrophy – which the artist’s sister has. Muscular Dystrophy is a muscle wasting condition of which there are many types – and each affects different muscles. Most conditions are progressive, causing the muscles to weaken over time. Some form of this disease affects more than 70,000 people in the UK. There is no cure for any of the different types, though there are various treatments that can help and gene therapy may be developed in the future.  Continue reading

Alexis Hunter and Jo Spence at Richard Saltoun Gallery, London

Published on Kaleidoscope Magazine’s website blog, September 2013

The Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, presents rarely seen, though highly influential, photographic portraits from the 1970s and 80s by feminist artists Alexis Hunter and Jo Spence. Tackling notions of female subjectivity, self-representation and the dominant (photographic) gaze, the exhibition reveals provocative insights into the empowerment of women. Hunter draws upon her training in painting to blur the boundaries between different media and uses this to subvert categories of political representation. Spence, however, uses photography to re-frame and re-enact her own subjective self, making ideas of erasure, creation and multiplicity fundamental to her practice and political agenda. Both artists explore the presentation of the female body, and through repetition of images and actions indicate there are multiple facets of the self. Some scenes retain the feel of amateur “snapshot” photography, suggesting these issues can be seen by and concern us all. Spence particularly draws upon personal subject matter, making themes of vulnerability, rawness and even tenderness surface in the initially confrontational-looking work. The self is bared almost explicitly in order to do away with cultural masks. This is a highly political and conceptual exhibition, concerned with defamiliarizing the image. Implicitly, it asks how can the female body be seen for what it is, as a self, rather than a set of cultural signifiers.

Alexis Hunter and Jo Spence’s exhibition curated by George Vasey at Richard Saltoun Gallery, London, will run through September 27.

Sarah Sense: Weaving Water exhibition

This article was published on Trebuchet Magazine Website.

Rainmaker, the only contemporary Native American art gallery in the Uk, has collaborated with the Native American Indian artist Sarah Sense and a Project Curator of the British Museum, Dr Max Carocci, to bring together the exhibition Weaving Water in Bristol. The work combines traditional weaving with photography.

This exhibition explores the notions of both forced and chosen migration, and the impact this has had on culture and one’s sense of identity or feelings of belonging. Both communal and personal issues are suggested in this project, which is centred the on sweeping movement of people from continent to continent. In particular, the personal aspects of the work are manifest in the artist’s concentration on the migration and movement of her own tribe, the Chitimacha, from colonial times to the present day.

During her research for Weaving Water, Sense discovered that the French took her tribal ancestors as slaves to the Caribbean colonies (before the African slave trade was started). This is a new discovery for many because this reverse slave-trading route has been written out of history. Dr Carocci researched into this forgotten history and edited the book Native American Adoption, Captivity and Slavery in Changing Contexts and the film Written out of History. Continue reading