Scene News: Ballarat International Foto Biennale unveils 2019 program

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale announces its 2019 Program
No. 2 Suo Jia Village - Liu Bolin
No. 2 Suo Jia Village – Liu Bolin

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) returns in 2019 from August 23 – October 20, this year shifting its focus to photographers who present the world in unconventional ways and in unpredictable circumstances. Featuring the work of some of the biggest international names in photography, the BIFB 2019 program delves deep into photographic explorations of human behaviour and human intervention, traversing the terrain of ecology, rights, race, capital and conflict.

Headlining the 2019 Biennale will be an exhibition of work by photographer and social activist, Liu Bolin titled Camouflage, alongside a mid-career retrospective of key photographic works by revered Indigenous Australian artist, Dr. Fiona Foley.

Other program highlights will include: To The Moon and Back, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing at the Ballarat Municipal Observatory and Museum; a personal, historical and cultural interrogation of the reproductive rights of women by award-winning Spanish photographer Laia Abril; an Australia-first solo exhibition of one of Israel’s most prominent photographers Adi Nes; Bauhaus Foto, which will mark 100 years since the establishment of the iconic Bauhaus school; Capital, a photographic exhibition curated by Naomi Cass, held  at Ballarat’s new National Centre for PhotographyGive Us This Day, a showcase of the work of two of the world’s leading documentary photographers Lauren Greenfield (US) and Vanessa Winship (UK); and an outdoor program which will transform the entire city into an open air gallery.

HHH #1 - Dr Fiona Foley
HHH#1 – Dr Fiona Foley

One of China’s most prominent living artists, Liu Bolin deftly traverses the mediums of performance, photography and social activism. Dubbed the ‘invisible man’ by media, Bolin dissects the tense relationship between the individual and society by ‘disappearing’ into environments which are sites of intrigue, contention and criticism — particularly in his home country, China. He then engages his audience by asking them to search for the invisible man — a metaphoric representation of those who have been forgotten as China rises to economic fiefdom.

Having exhibited the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; and Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Bolin cemented his global renown with a TED talk given in 2013 that went on to be viewed by millions across the world. Since then he has collaborated with the likes of Annie Liebowitz, the United Nations, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and The Louvre,
while continuing to develop new work and exhibiting extensively.

Biennale Artistic Director Fiona Sweet said: “We are thrilled to have Liu Bolin as the centrepiece of the 2019 program. His astonishing work has long grappled with the concerns facing a globalised world. Combining body art, optical art, living sculpture and photography, his work turns disappearance into an active expression of resistance.” 

Co-headlining the 2019 program is a major retrospective of photographic work by internationally celebrated Indigenous artist, and Badtjala woman, Dr Fiona Foley. Curated by leading Indigenous writer, artist and activist, Djon Mundine OAM, Who are these strangers and where are they going? draws from Foley’s 30–year career as an artist.

“It is an honour to present a mid-career retrospective of Fiona Foley’s most important photographic works,” says Sweet. “For 30 years Fiona has been, and remains to be, a true pioneer in her pursuit to rectify the racial inequalities that exist in Australia.”

Presented in interactive, site specific installations, alongside a momentous new soundscape specifically marking the occasion of the International Year of Indigenous Languages — Who are these strangers and where are they going? will showcase the breadth of Foley’s like never before.

Curated by visual artist, writer and academic Rebecca Najdowski together with Melbourne-based artist and academic Dr. Colleen Boyle, To the Moon and Back celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a photographic exploration of all things lunar.  Held at the heritage-listed Ballarat Municipal Observatory and Museum, the exhibition will feature work from a diverse group of international visual artists — with each one presenting a contemporary exploration of the continuing relevance of the historic event and its lasting photographic legacy. The work, by artists Penelope Umbrico, Matt Lipps, and Sharon Harper (USA); Sasha Huber (Switzerland/Finland); Jorge Mañes Rubio (Spain); Vincent Fournier (France); Andrew Curtis (Australia); and Qicong Lin (China), promises to demonstrate that, although astronauts no longer walk on the surface of the moon, photography has continued to feed our imaginations with one of the greatest stories of humankind — our journey to the moon and back.

Moon Temple 06 - Jorge Mañes Rubio
Moon Temple – Jorge Mañes Rubio

Having achieved international acclaim after its initial 2016 showing in Spain, award-winning Spanish photographer Laia Abril’s personal, historical, and cultural interrogation of the ongoing deterioration of women’s reproductive rights now feels as timely and as urgent as ever before. This year, BIFB will bring Abril’s starkly confronting, impeccably researched A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion to Australia for the first time.

Elsewhere, creating meticulous, dreamlike images described by the The New York Times as ‘a homoerotic challenge to Israeli machismo,’ Adi Nes is known for photographs that are reminiscent of Renaissance or Baroque paintings and often based on parables and collective cultural memory. Sexual tension is ever-present in Nes’ dramatic portraits as he delves into complex explorations of homoeroticism to reveal universal humanism.  In one of his most recognised images — and one that helped establish him as a global talent and one of Israel’s most celebrated artists — Nes recreated Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, replacing the central figures with Israeli soldiers. For the first time in Australia BIFB will present a solo exhibition of Nes’ work.

Untitled - Adi Nes
Untitled – Adi Nes

This year marks 100 years since the establishment of the iconic Bauhaus school in Weimar, Germany, and the influence of the school and its subsequent artistic movement continues to be seen around the art world today. With Bauhuas Foto, Ballarat International Foto Biennale Creative Director, Fiona Sweet and Biennale Co-Curator Aaron Bradbrook, bring together six prominent photographic artists from Australia, Germany and Ireland who celebrate Bauhaus and display its influence in their contemporary practices. Featured artists include Conseulo Cavaniglia, David Rosetzky and Zoë Croggon (Australia); Roseanne Lynch (Ireland); and Thomas Ruff and Lilly Lula (Germany).

Curated by Castlemaine Art Gallery Manager and former Director of Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) Naomi Cass, together with photographic archivist Gareth Syvret, Capital investigates the use of photography as a method for reflecting upon systems of value and exchange in contemporary Indigenous and settler cultures. Capital will feature work by Gabi Briggs (Australia), Peta Clancy (Australia), Mark Curran (UK), Simryn Gill (Malaysia/Australia), Kristian Haggblom (Australia), Newell Harry (Australia), Lisa Hilli (Australia), Nicholas Mangan (Australia), Darren Siwes (Australia), Martin Toft (UK), Yvonne Todd (New Zealand), Justine Varga (Australia) and Arika Waulu (Australia).

Coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 30th anniversary of UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention, Give Us This Day confronts the realities of the ‘rights’ of children and examines how intrinsic social values shape a child’s lived experience and dictate the definition of childhood. Curated by BIFB Associate Curator Aaron Bradbrook, Give Us This Day showcases the work of two of the world’s most esteemed documentary photographers, Emmy Award-winning US filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield, and two-time World Press Photo Award-winner, Vanessa Winship.

Versions (Missile Variations) – Oliver Laric

The 2019 BIFB Outdoor Program will see  familiar streets, laneways, shopfronts and building exteriors morph into exhilarating exhibition spaces with works by Mandy Barker (UK), Taysir Batniji (Palestine)Monty Coles, Hayden Fowler, Oliver Laric (Poland), Eden Menta and Janelle Low, Erin M McCuskey, Sally McKayHan Sungpil (Korea), as well as a celebration of the covers of one of Australia’s best book designers W.H. Chong in the windows of Collins Booksellers.

Over a two-month program running from 23 August to 20 October, the Biennale will present 30 exhibitions, 70 open programs, a boutique season of contemporary video works at the  Regent Cinema, an extensive special events and public program, plus the presentation of both the Martin Kantor Portrait Prize and Alane Fineman New Photography Award.

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