Tate Modern’s curator of photography picks out his top five of the year, including Maisie Cousins’ grass, peonie, bum show from TJ Boulting Gallery
Sue Steward is remembered on 16 November with music and tributes at The Tabernacle, London. Even Sue, a writer who excelled in celebrating lives, might have struggled to write an obituary that unravelled the vibrant meshing of her own. She lived with ferocious energy and enthusiasm, and a genuine gift for friendship so innate that she never realised how unique it was. When Sue died recently from a brain haemorrhage, sustained in her beloved East Sussex garden, grief ricocheted through an extensive global network of friends and colleagues.
“It’s got nothing to do with Brexit or Europe!” says curator Greg Hobson. “I think we can’t begin to understand that yet. It’s just being addressed by photographers now. We’re discussing the exhibition A Green and Pleasant Land – British Landscape and the Imagination: 1970s to Now, which he’s curated with Brian Cass, head of exhibitions at Towner Art Gallery, and which recently opened at the Towner. Including over 100 works by 50 artists (52 if you count the people in duos separately), it’s a major survey of the land we live on and how photographers have shown it, including image-makers such as John Blakemore, Thomas Joshua Cooper, Fay Godwin, John Davies, Paul Graham, and Theo Simpson.
We are in Arles, where in July 2016 he showed Mortuary, one of his signature sculptural installations, made up of heavily manipulated, elongated photographic forms. He had been selected for the Rencontres photofestival’s Discovery Award, though in truth this cat had been long out of the bag – Yokota exhibited in Arles in 2015, showing his almost imperceptible inky-black prints from his Inversion series as part of Another Language: 8 Japanese Photographers, curated by Simon Baker of Tate Modern. And in the preceding half decade, his intriguing, visually arresting performances, experiments, installations, books, soundscapes and collaborations have blazed a trail from Tokyo to wider international acclaim, taking photography on a journey to the extreme. In this he is a revolutionary, with neither pretension nor timid creativity. The sheer energy with which he produces work is extraordinary, verging on obsessional and driven by a desire to constantly record, destroy and then recreate. Anxiety is the fuel. “In my mind, I have an image of burning energy in continual production,” he says.
Tate was famously slow to institutionalise photography, staging its first photography show (Cruel + Tender: The real in the 20th century photography) in 2003, and appointing its first photography curator, Simon Baker, in 2009. Now, hot on the heels of its acquisition of Martin Parr’s 12,000-strong photobook collection, its now made another major commitment to photography, appointing Kate Bush in the new post of Adjunct Curator of Photography. Bush, who was previously Head of Photography at the Science Museum Group, and prior to that Head of Art Galleries at the Barbican Centre in London, starts at Tate Britain in October.
“I have always wanted my photobook collection to go to a public institution in the UK and with the recent commitment to photography from Tate, this was a very easy decision to make. I’m also very happy that thanks to Maja and LUMA, the city of Arles will embrace the photobook phenomenon,” says Martin Parr. Well-known as an avid photobook collector, co-author of the seminal three-volume anthology The Photobook: A History, and a respected photographer, the Magnum Photos member has given his entire collection to Tate. Built up over 25 years and including 12,000 photobooks, it is a world-class library which includes a broad geographical scope and many different approaches to photography, and includes self-published amateur work and mass-produced books alongside iconic publications by artists such as Hans Bellmer, Nobuyoshi Araki and Robert Frank.
Global business developer for Magnum Photos and founder of Firecracker, Fiona Rogers picks out her top five from the Arles festival and its fringe events – the group show Iran, Year 38; Looking for Lenin by Niels Ackermann; The Incurable Egoist by Masahisa Fukase; Life in Cities by Michael Wolf; and The Island of the Colorblind by Sanne De Wilde
“People consume photographs,” says Erik Kessels, “they don’t look at them anymore.” It’s a theme he’s played with in his work, most notably in the installation 24hrs In Photos, in which he printed out all the images posted on Flickr on a single day.
1. Araki at Musee Guimet 13 April-05 September, and Hamiltons 27 September-22 November Not a bad 76th year. A beautiful retrospective show at Musee Guimet in Paris, as well as a striking exhibition of new work at Hamiltons Gallery in London. Araki took the opportunity of being 76 to work with a 6×7 medium format camera and made some of his best work in years. 2. Provoke: Between Protest and Performance at Le Bal, 14 September-11 December Exhibition touring Europe, currently at Le Bal. Incredibly powerful. A historic show 3. Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John Collection, Tate Modern Curated by my colleague Shoair Mavlian. A real surprise for many visitors and a highpoint of the year for me too.One of the great private collections of modernist photography, in incredible frames! 5. All the photography in the new expanded Tate Modern It’s everywhere now! Especially happy to see Boris Mikhailov and Sirkka Liisa Kontinen in the new Switch House. Both where they belong at the heart of the collection. 4. Juno Calypso It has …
Tate Modern has just opened an extension that gives it 60 percent more exhibition space, which means more room to show photography as part of the institution’s newfound commitment to the medium, weaving it into exhibits alongside other art forms. BJP visits Tate’s curator of photography ahead of the opening.