This is the final week of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, where every gallery, cafe, shop and laneway in the town oozes world class photographic art. This year’s theme “the performance of identity” has allowed for highly topical conversations, particularly around cultural identities in Australia and around the world. Here are our highlights from the diverse artworks on offer:
One of the flagship shows for this year, Tell, is an impressive array of works by contemporary Indigenous photographers. Housed in the historic Mining Exchange building, the works ranged from the quietly thought provoking to the bold and eye catching. Utilising the building’s unique architecture which featured small side rooms, works such as Bindi Cole Chocka’s subtle Fertility series allow the viewers a focussed intimacy with the work in a small exhibition space. However bolder works such as the large works of Maree Clarke are given the space to breathe in the high ceilinged central room. Although Tell features 17 artists, it is clear that quality was not sacrificed for quantity, with each work utilising distinctly different techniques and technologies to articulate the multifaceted experience of Indigenous artists today.
Stumbling into this exhibition housed in the functioning Trades Hall, was a truly distinct experience. Moving through the cluttered hallway past union posters and picket signs leaning against the wall set the scene for a selection of documentary work from international photographers and visual activists. The works in this exhibition particularly aim to show the more nuanced and personal experiences of life in countries often superficially or negatively represented in the mass media, from Iran to Cambodia to South Africa. A massive highlight of the exhibition was Mak Remissa’s images such as the above Khmer Rouge soldiers took control of the capital city, which uses paper cutouts to recreate images of war in Cambodia. By removing the humanity and reality of these truamatic scenes through the artifice of representation, these images of war become even more arresting.
Ich Werde Deutsch
Maziar Moradi’s exhibition’s title translates to I Become German in English, and is a poignant and topical exhibition in an era of mass migration with millions of people seeking asylum and building new lives in foreign countries. This body of work explores the powerful stories of young people from across the globe who have settled in Germany. To create these images, Moradi has invited his subjects to re-enact moments and scenes of significance to their personal and cultural development. The result is a collection of haunting images ranging from the dramatic to the surreal and the banal which together to illustrate the varied path toward cultural belonging and becoming German.
(Outdoor) Public Program
Walking on the streets of Ballarat, there is no way you could miss BIFB, as photography is exhibited in a wide variety of inspired locations and exhibition styles. Two works that stood out where the works of Shadi Ghirian and Gohar Dashti, both female artists from Iran. Ghirain’s work consist of large, commanding portraits of women’s head and shoulders with domestic objects where the face should be for her series Like EveryDay. Installed on the main thoroughfare into the town, Sturt Street, Festival Director Fiona Sweet says the artwork has created a lot of discussion in the town. By contrast, Dashti’s Stateless photographs are large staged landscapes directly applied to the walls of Police Lane, which represent the personal struggles of migrants and refugees set against dramatic middle eastern landscapes. The contrast of these foreign landscapes installed on the buildings of these small city laneways gives the viewer the impression of looking through a window into another world.
Best Of The Fringe: Surface Deep – Kim Percy
There were so many incredible works in the Fringe portion of the program, but if there is one that should not be missed it is the work of Kim Percy. These delicate photographs are installed outside of Ballarat at Lake Wendouree. Easy to miss, these photographic disks have a mesmerising presence floating on the surface of the lake amongst the lily pads. Although you need to drive out of the city centre to experiecne this work, aside from the beautiful pieces, the location gives a peaceful respite from the art gallery format. There are two local works in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens, Keeping Your Distance/Up Close and Personal by Ailsa Brackley du Bois and Laurie Brackley and Spook by Bernadette Keys and they are just another reason to make the short drive.