DID YOU HEAR?
THERE’S SOMETHING HAPPENING HERE
14 September – 10 November 2012
There’s Something Happening Here sounds like a promising title for an exhibition that not only opens the season in London but is also supposed to capture the attention of the international audience during Frieze Art Fair this week.
The new show at Brancolini Grimaldi gallery—curated by James Reid, Photography Director of Wallpaper, and Tom Watt, Art Director of ArtReview—introduces an emerging generation of photographers and image-makers. The group of artists is very diverse—as much as it is their background and practice—but they all share a commitment to exploring the world and the medium of photography in radical and experimental ways.
The strength of the selection is not killed but enhanced by a very graphic installation: a visual plan that develops on the walls creating a system/game of correspondences between the images. It definitely helps the viewer engage with the works rather than just perusing the gallery.
Among the seventeen artists presented by There’s Something Happening Here, it’s the very personal approach and use of photography in the work of Caleb Charland and Jacob Sutton that caught my attention.
The quality of Charland’s prints is remarkable but what really impressed me was the mysterious nature of his images. Apple Trees & LEDs depicts, with its candid and poetic beauty, a fascinating and partly obscure story. A lamp at the center of the photograph is connected to the apple trees around it through zinc-coated galvanized nails, inserted in the fruit, and copper wires. The electric current generated by the apples powers the lamp that seems to be able to illuminate the entire scene. The glow actually produced though is very dim. It needs to be amplified with a very long exposure (4 to 8 hours) to make the setting visible and allow the artist to record it.
I was definitely intrigued by Caleb’s work but at the same time it left me wondering about the role of photography in his practice. After emailing with him, I realised that what I considered a purely documentary/pragmatic use of photography is, in fact, an essential part to the process. He told me: “Photography is what really brings a life to the images. […] Sometimes it feels like the actual camera is secondary, though it is not secondary at all. The photograph is the reason and the only way to convey the idea for me.”
On the other hand, I immediately connected to Jacob Sutton’s imagery. It reminded me of the work of photographer Barbara Morgan with her organic and suggestive portraits of Martha Graham, or Lois Greenfield and her collaboration with David Parsons and Daniel Ezralow. The same way, dancers are one of Sutton’s favourite subjects for the wider range of expressive possibilities that their trained, flexible and responding bodies offer. The photographer compares it to being able to “[…] speak with a richer vocabulary.”
Sutton and choreographer Jonah Bokaer staged a drama of the body where the emotional and physical determine and influence each other in a continuous flow. The dancers prepared for the actual shooting improvising a set of specific words such as frenetic, fluidity, release, implode. Connecting to its very meaning and what the word made resonate in them, they expanded on it and conveyed their emotional and psychological engagement through their body language.
Bokaer himself performed in front of Sutton’s camera creating an iconic portrait of total abandonment in the fall. The awareness and elegance of the movement make it a visually daring and piercing image. The enriching exchange established with the dancers fueled the work and showed in the final result.
The interest in how to express movement in art dates back to Sutton’s roots: his mother was a dancer, and his father an artist. In the history of photography, we have plenty of references starting with Muybridge or Gjon Mili. For Sutton “[…] the magic lies in challenging the boundaries of a medium that is so static, and giving it energy.”
There’s Something Happening Here is a dynamic experience that definitely offers alternative and refreshing points of view on photography. The exhibition also includes the work of Clare Strand, along with Steven Brahms, Matthew Porter, Nicole Belle, Dru Donovan, Marton Perlaki, Sabrina Bongiovanni, Hullegie/Bongiovanni, Asger Carlsen, Tim Gutt, Rachel Bee Porter, Jessica Eaton, Letha Wilson, Fleur van Dodewaard and Carl Kleiner.
Review by Elisa Badii