The director of The Photographers' Gallery in London on what made 2016 for her - and what she's looking forward to in 2017
1. Visiting ECAL Lausanne, June 2016
Having heard so much about the extraordinary photography school in Lausanne, it was a privilege to finally get an opportunity to visit the place as a guest of Milo Keller to participate in the end-of-year jury for BA photography students. Not only did I hugely enjoy the interaction with the 16 students (along with fellow jury members Sheyi Banke and Will Hudson of Its Nice That) but spending the day exploring this open and transparent building was very refreshing. I felt I had been transplanted to a new Utopia in which fees for attending art schools were affordable and students provided with the time for quality engagement with their tutors and visiting artists. That now seems like a situation which in the UK is sadly long in the past.
2. Eamonn Doyle installation at Les Rencontres d’Arles, July-September 2016
Eamonn’s first installation, combining architecture, design, sound and photography, really did split the photo community in two. People seemed to either love it or hate it. I was impressed by it on many levels – social documentary photography in Arles has been so constrained by the usual tropes of exhibition-making that I felt that Doyle provided a new proposition, which felt aligned to the edginess and emotion of his subjects and reflected the urban environment in which he created the work. I’d now like to see him building on this experience by creating more installations of this nature. I enjoyed the accompanying artist’s books with its concertina pull-outs too.
3. Provoke show at Le Bal, November-March 2016
Diane Dufour’s powerfully-curated show of the work of major protagonists of Provoke movement in Japan seems incredibly timely, given the challenging political times in which we are currently living. The fact that there was very little or in most cases no vintage prints/material from the Provoke era to draw upon, since most of the photographers destroyed their work, made the curating of this show extremely challenging, but the use of secondary material, books and moving image ensured the era came alive in all its intensity. This small but richly-researched show demonstrated to me once again the important role played by the smaller-sized institutions in tackling big subjects such as Provoke.
In 2017 I’m looking forward to:
1. Dominic Hawgood at FOAM, June-August 2017
I have been following Hawgood’s work for some time, and think this is the opportunity he needs to demonstrate how he can work with a larger space to develop his ideas which question the limits and tension between real/virtual, representation and the imagination. Will he be able to sustain them across the ground floor of FOAM? I hope so!
2. Saints at The Photographers’ Gallery, November 2017
The first exhibition exploring the visual representation of the first opera on Broadway to employ an exclusively Afro-American cast – 4 Saints, written by Gertrude Stein. Including portraits and documentary images by Lee Miller, Carl van Vechten, George Platt Lynes, There Bonney and other photographers working in NY and Paris in 1930s, it will provide a valuable insight into a rarely-viewed period of modernist experimentation, avant-garde art and African-American involvement in white American culture.