Getxophoto Festival asks where we are going in a new, post-global era, with ex Sunday Times Magazine picture editor Monica Allende at the helm
“Where are ‘we’ going as a collective society?” That’s the question posed by this year’s Getxophoto Festival, back for its 11th edition under the stewardship of new artistic director, Bilbao-born Monica Allende. The festival, which opens on 31 August and runs until 01 October 2017, comprises 20 main exhibitions, many of them outdoors, and a lively programme of activity and events unfurling around the coastal town of Getxo in the Basque country.
“‘Transitions’, the theme for the next three instalments of the festival, starts from the idea that we are entering “a period of post-globalisation”, says Allende, a former photo editor at The Sunday Times. “This concept has been on the fringes of debate for some time but is gathering momentum in mainstream discourse.
“We see its effects through increased polarisation of political debate around the threats of climate change, the refugee crisis and the rise of nationalist populism. This is a moment of major uncertainties, where the status quo of the state and global free-market agreements are being questioned as solutions for a balanced and sustainable future.”
Work by photographers from France, Japan, the USA and Ecuador, as well as a significant number born or based in the UK, responds to the theme in different ways. Monica Alcazar Duarte’s The New Colonists examines “the new space race” through portraits of UK scientists shortlisted for a one-way mission to Mars in 2030, for example, set alongside photographs of a US town named Mars.
Yan Wang Preston’s Forest probes the line between nature and artifice by documenting Chinese cities where forests have been made from mature trees. Richard Allenby-Pratt’s Abandoned, meanwhile, imagines a post-oil-industry Dubai. Elsewhere there’s In Flux, a group show co-curated by Tate Modern’s Shoair Mavlian. First exhibited in Greece during the debt crisis, In Flux responds to the near-continuous state of change we’ve found ourselves in since 2015, with work by Vladyslav Krasnoshchok, Sergiy Lebedynsky, Emine Gozde Sevim and José Pedro Cortes.
New forms of visual storytelling take centre stage in a strand entitled New Conversations. Included in it, The Ark by Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill is a VR documentary about how tensions between the United States and Africa play out in conservation management of the rare northern white rhinoceros. Dries Depoorter’s installation Jaywalking lets viewers watch live footage of jaywalkers and choose whether or not to report them by pressing a button to send a screenshot to the nearest police station.
Much of the photography on show is presented in unconventional spaces around the town: papered onto the façades of buildings or giant canvases, and often produced in partnership with local entrepreneurs or shopkeepers. This is reflective of the festival’s commitment to “a radical defence of public space as a place for encounter, recreation and reflection”.
Surrounding the exhibitions are talks, interventions, screenings, workshops, tours and night promenades. There’s a focus on education, with a five-day experimental Photo Book Lab led by Japanese curator Yumi Goto and Spanish photographer Juanan Requena, as well as a zine-making workshop with The Photocopy Club’s Matt Martin.
Drawing on her photojournalistic background Allende, who also directed FORMAT festival earlier this year, has her sights set beyond the typical photography crowd. “I would like to instigate a debate that transcends the concept of photography, of visually educated professionals and even the traditional idea of the photo festival, which feels increasingly restrictive and limiting,” she says.
“I see the festival as an opportunity to openly discuss news and ideas in a public space and therefore as a collective and inclusive experience.”
Getxophoto Festival is open from 31 August – 01 October. www.getxophoto.com/en/