One Step Beyond
PHOTO50 is already established as a radical take on the art of photography. 2014 curators, Charlie Fellowes and Jeremy Epstein, do not disappoint
One of the most anticipated sections of the London Art Fair is the Art Projects arena, which has received acclaim and positive reviews since its inauguration. Within this is PHOTO50, which also engenders much attention and critical debate. The organisers presumably had in mind a contained exhibitions showing current in vogue images, but since Sue Steward presented her interpretation of the brief in 2012, followed by Nick Hackworth in 2013, this division has become decidedly the province of visionary provocative curating.
The baton for 2014 has been handed to the two partners in trending Victoria-based gallery, Edel Assanti. And Jeremy Epstein and Charlie Fellowes fully intend to take PHOTO50 visitors on a journey into the unexpected. Although Fellowes (as ex-Hamilton Gallery staffer) is ostensibly the photography expert, Epstein (formerly of Gagosian Gallery) has taken the reins with enthusiasm and explains why, how and what they have in store for January.
'Of course Charlie is on a number of committees and panels to do with photography, but it is fair to say these are mainly concerned with lens based work. So this brings together an area of major interest for Charlie and one the definitely interests me. It has been a joint endeavour. But we have both become involved with the internet generation - almost post-internet generation - and artists who are critically engaged in this area. We had the idea for PHOTO50 about the impact of the advent of the internet and digital age on the dissemination of artworks. The vast majority of inclusions are made not using a camera, although they use photography, most are print based using stock or appropriated imagery. PHOTO50 defines itself by medium, ours is a show that says if you want to talk about photography now you have to talk about the fact that the medium has shifted its focus - now there are a lot of people working with the photographic image who are definitely not photographers. There is definitely a comment on the abundance of the imagery in the show.'
The exposition is entitled Immaterial Matter and the official release notes that it will 'demonstrate the irrevocably altered state of photography as a classification in the post-internet era, in which images exist in potentially infinite alternative manifestations. This exploration is enacted playfully at times, in work that attempts to situate itself on the boundary between the ascribed realms of the digital and material, and progressively elsewhere, in works that describe new ontologies and geographies that are developing as a result of the prevalence of free circulating digital information.'
A proposition sure to exercise the photography anoraks. But as Epstein observes, once contracted, they took the opportunity seriously.
'Edel Assanti had contributed to Art Projects for a couple of years running. We were contacted last July about PHOTO50 and the organisers ask you to create an essay on your concept once it has been formulated. We jumped on a plane to the USA - where a lot of the art we were contemplating originates - and then decided we could indeed make it happen. We included every artists in our show in the essay to demonstrate where they fitted into the profile. It is a lot of work but this year we think we have created a real headline-grabber!
'We will also be running an exhibition at the gallery not unrelated to this to coincide with the London Art Fair. But, actually, our programme doesn't hugely address this sort of material. We have lately become very interested in the post-internet generation, the 25-35 year old artists, but we do not really have that much of a commercial programme in Victoria. Art fairs are more about expansion than consolidation for Edel Assanti. 2014 is going to be an important year for us we have a lot happening.'