Photovisa 2012

Physiognomy in the Caucasus

BACK IN MAY CDC posted information on the portrait competition for this year’s Photovisa festival.  The 12-person jury have their work cut out because 578 photographers from over fifty countries submitted more than five thousand images for consideration. The winners will be announced during the opening week of the festival which begins on 17 October.

Photovisa is based in one of Russia’s busiest business centres, the city of Krasnodar in the Caucasus, but this year’s event also includes venues in Novorossiysk and Anapa on the Black Sea coast. The Artistic Director Irina Tchmyreva and Festival Chief Evgeny Berezner have put together a rich and varied program setting work by internationally established artists alongside emerging names. In all, there are 28 exhibitions of work from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Slovakia, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay and, of course, Russia.

The exhibitions include a video installation by Hanne Nielsen and Birgit Johsen, who hail from one of the world’s happiest nations, Denmark (well, according to a Gallup Poll). So perhaps unsurprisingly it is a work entitled “I am so fucking happy”. In the video various women (presumably all Danish) are asked to say the words of the title to camera. The repetition of the phrase, the accenting and the relative stressing of the syllables create many meanings, by no means all of which are uncomplicatedly joyful. It is ironic, but also curiously humane. I particular warmed to the three ladies who, unprepared to use the expletive, deftly modified the line with a cheerful sense of propriety.

ALSO TAKING TO THE STREETS is New York photographer Susan A Barnett whose exhibition ‘Not in Your Face’ depicts the back view of various people wearing tee-shirts with messages emblazoned on them. It’s work that has been getting quite an airing online in recent weeks. At the other end of the reality telescope are the unearthly virtual portraits of the Russian media artist Oleg Dou, which hover somewhere between commedia dell’arte and Spielbergian sci-fi.

In his film, Le Petit Soldat, Jean-Luc Godard has the character of Bruno Forestier declare “When you photograph a face…you photograph the soul behind it”. That is perhaps an overstatement. But as human beings we are hard-wired to read the face like a book. Photovisa 2012 offers a selective and engaging reading list.

Photovisa runs from 17 October to 18 November, with the main events focused into the week from 17–23 October.

More information about Photovisa here.


Images (from the top):
© Sergei Maximishin Muslim students of the University, Makhachkala, Dagestan 2008
© Susan A. Barnett Hard Times Bring Hard Luck 2012
© Oleg Dou Ira tears 2008 from the project ‘Tears’


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  • The majority of the texts on this site are by Alasdair Foster and represent his opinions. However, in order to facilitate a useful diversity of views, some texts have been invited from artists and colleagues around the world, while others appear as independent comments. These opinions and comments are not necessarily those of Alasdair Foster or Cultural Development Consulting (CDC). All data and information on this site is provided on an as-is basis. While every effort is made to be as thorough as possible, neither Alasdair Foster nor CDC make representations as to accuracy, completeness, currency, suitability or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions or delays in this information or any losses, injuries or damages arising from its display or use.
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