Media Space, Stranger than Fiction

The artist Joan Fontcuberta has accused the Science Museum of censoring his work to placate the Russian government. This is a story in the new issue of Source, out today.

Joan Fontcuberta is a distinguished artist and winner of the 2013 Hasselblad Award. His solo exhibition at the Media Space, 'Stranger than Fiction' opened at the end of July. Among his works is a series called 'Sputnik' that elaborately fabricates a Russian space mission crewed by someone resembling the artist himself. The Science Museum has a planned exhibition 'Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age' that depends on loans from Russia. Fontcuberta says that sensitivity about this planned exhibition led the Museum to censor his show: ‘I was told that because of delicate loan negotiations with the Russian government… the Media Museum direction decided not to include that project to avoid offending them. End of discussion.’ Fontcuberta was also told that ‘Yuri Gagarin’s daughter – an important officer at Hermitage Museum – disliked deeply my Sputnik series’ (she is in fact Director of the Kremlin Museum).

Asked for a response to the artist’s allegations the Media Space Press Officer Simon Thompson said, ‘I can’t comment on conversations between yourself and the artist… Greg [Greg Hobson the exhibition’s curator] wanted to present a handful of Fontcuberta’s works that are conceptually independent yet thematically complementary and decided to focus on those that dealt with the natural and spiritual worlds. While Sputnik didn't fit this narrative (moreover, a major exhibition on cosmonautics was already planned), it does still appear in Fontcuberta’s exhibition publication’.

This takes place against a backdrop of, on the one hand, increasing tension between the UK and Russian governments including mounting sanctions, and on the other, an ongoing UK-Russia year of culture that has seen a series of high profile exhibitions including a Malevich exhibition at the Tate Gallery and a James Bond exhibition in Moscow among many other events. Fontcuberta remarked that he had tried to negotiate with the Museum saying ‘with the Ukranian crisis, my fictional narrative piece about a lost Soviet cosmonaut was going to be a minor problem in those eventual negotiations’ but to no effect. Sardonically he remarks ‘Sputnik has accumulated quite a few funny anecdotes like this’.

 

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Arles 2014 Day 3

The third day of Arles for us seemed to be dedicated to books. We started with Erik Kessels' Dutch photography show, a lot of which had originated in books, then we went on to Cosmos, a publishers showcase, then on to Marcus Shaden's presentation about his Photobook Museum project before ending up, where we had started on Monday, back at the Photobook Shop to speak to the Austrian publisher Fotohof.

Our conversations seemed to take in the entire span of book production from the new self publisher Nicolo Degiorgis through to the canonisation of books in a Museum or library (Fotohof have a photobook library with 12,500 titles). Alongside the conviviality we had experienced since we arrived we were also aware of the DIY ethic that many of our interviewees espoused. There was a sense that, notwithstanding its popularity, publishers had to create their own niche in the Festival by collaborating. Perhaps that's why it was one of the liveliest strands of the event.

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Arles 2014 Day 2

At the centre of the old part of Arles is a square called Place du Forum which is surrounded by cafes. They are not very nice cafes by French standards and, incongruously, groups of tourists on the trail of Vincent van Gogh occasionally assemble to look at them. But, like roundabouts, they are a sort of crossing point for people visiting the photo festival and at almost any time of night or day you will bump into someone you know there. In this way, while passing through the square we were introduced to Annette Booth who, it turned out, had installed the Chinese photobook exhibition that we had seen that morning. We went and had dinner together and she told us all about it.
2014 book-award display
We spent the afternoon in the Ateliers looking through the hundreds of books submitted for the 2014 book award. Seeing this number of books in one go can give rise to both positive and negative feelings! It is astonishing just how much is produced every year. The standard of production and the general quality is high. I saw a few books that I like and will now try and find copies of. Yes, there is some repetition but perhaps if you like pictures of mountains or sites-where-something-happened, or any of the other themes that recur, that's a good thing.

Also in the Atelier was the Discovery Awards show selected by Alexis Fabry (France), Bohnchang Koo (Korea), Wim Mélis (Netherlands), Azu Nwagbogu (Nigeria) and Quentin Bajac (the new chief curator at MoMA). If you were looking for clues as to what floats Quentin Bajac's boat then based on the two artists selected here he likes cluttered, academic, archive-y work. Stepping back from the choices of each of the curators I was surprised that the show reproduced the current global narrative that has China as the site of massive engineering projects while the US is about rural poverty and industrial decline, Africa a stage for playful fantasy and Europe home to abstraction and introspection. Maybe that's how it is but it didn't count as a discovery for me.

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Arles 2014 Day 1

I have just returned from my first visit to the photography festival in Arles. I was there with Adam O'Meara who has filmed many of the videos Source has made recently. So while we were there we conducted some short interviews with many of the people we met (those who could be coaxed into talking to me on camera) and filmed some of the venues. This wasn't planned, so who we spoke to was decided by chance. We also didn't know what the venues would be like or have an idea what to expect based on previous years' shows. As has been widely reported the Festival is in a transitional moment following the resignation of its Director. The consensus among seasoned visitors seems to be that this Les Rencontres d’Arles doesn't match previous editions. But from my point of view it was still the largest photography event I have attended and well worth the trip.

Happily, it wasn't as hot as I had expected. I did experience the standard frustrations of being in a hotel some distance from the main events, which I have heard described many times before. I assume these are rooms reserved primarily for first-time visitors. I also provided some nourishment for the local insect population which I would try to avoid in future. But these are minor quibbles, Arles was good fun and I hope this film (and the films of the second and third days which I will post up shortly) gives some impression what it is like to go there.

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Source-Cord Prize Judge Stefanie Grebe

The fourth film about the judges for the Source-Cord Prize. We have published interviews with the other judges Kate Bush, Mariko Takeuchi and John Duncan, the last film is with Stefanie Grebe, a curator at the Ruhr Museum in Essen. As well as working at a spectacular industrial site Stefanie has an interesting role working with both historical material and contemporary work, some of which is commissioned. To match this role she has a varied background that takes in some philosophy, history, photojournalism and art photography.

To find out more about the Source-Cord Prize and how to take part see here.

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Arts Council England Funding 2015-18

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This morning the Arts Council of England have announced their funding for 'Portfolio Organisations' for the coming three years. For photography organisations in England the general picture is standstill funding or small cuts. The major victim is Photofusion who have lost all their funding. The outstanding beneficiaries are Focal Point Gallery with a 41% uplift in funding for the next three years and Autograph, who nearly double their funding.

A member of staff at Photofusion, who had just heard the news, said they were all 'completely gutted' at the cut in funding. The Arts Council grant makes up 25% of their income and its loss will have serious implications for the future of the organisation. Photofusion has been funded by the Arts Council since 1984.

Meanwhile, the contrasting fortunes of Focal Point Gallery could not be clearer to its Director Joe Hill (pictured) who was only confirmed to the position last week (having previously been deputy to the previous Director, Andrew Hunt). Focal Point has recently moved into a new gallery space as part of the library redevelopment and Hill believes that the funding increase 'recognizes the achievements of the organisation over the past five years'. This has included doubling their audience figures and putting on a programme of high-profile artists often showing new work made in Southend itself. Talking about his plans Hill says they intend to 'maintain their ambitious programme'.

Originally an out and out photography gallery since the tenure of the last Director Focal Point has been more 'lens-based' (ie. with an equal emphasis on video). Hill now says they represent a broad range of artistic practice. Photography now makes up a small part of their exhibitions, although they will show new work by Bridget Smith in the Spring of 2015. No one for Autograph was available to comment.

The Photographers' Gallery  £2,711,167 (2012/15),   £2,706,796 (2015/18)

Autograph ABP  £1,056,342 (2012/15),  £2,100,000 (2015/18)

Photoworks  £822,493 (2012/15),  £804,945 (2015/18)

Impressions Gallery  £604,224 (2012/15),  £606,843 (2015/18)

Open Eye Gallery  £575,017 (2012/15),  £576,903 (2015/18)

Focal Point Gallery £396,179 (2012/15),  £559,152 (2015/18)

Redeye, the Photography Network £261,271 (2012/15),  £263,763 (2015/18)

 

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Source-Cord Prize Judge John Duncan

There are four judges for the Source-Cord Prize. We have published interviews with Kate Bush and Mariko Takeuchi, the third interview is with John Duncan, one of the editors of Source. An important part of John's role in Source is finding and selecting work to be published in the portfolio pages of the magazine. As one of the judges for the Source-Cord Prize he will, along with the other judges, be looking through all the submissions to decide the eventual winners (and also seeing if he can spot work that could be published in future issues of Source).

To find out more about the Source-Cord Prize and how to take part see here.

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Source-Cord Prize Judge Mariko Takeuchi

Mariko Takeuchi, the second interview with a Source-Cord Prize judge. She is based in Kyoto and we spoke to her at her office at Kyoto University of Art and Design about what she hopes to see in a new piece of photographic work and her view of contemporary photography.

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Source-Cord Prize Judge Kate Bush

There are four judges for the Source-Cord Prize. Over the coming weeks we will publish interviews with each of them. The first interview is with Kate Bush, a curator who has worked in many of the most important photography and art institutions in London, starting with the seminal photography gallery (also publisher of the influential magazine) Camerawork. She later moved on to the ICA, the Photographers' Gallery and most recently worked at the Barbican Art Galleries.

Kate has been responsible for a number of the most ambitious photography shows held in the UK including Everything was Moving in 2012 and In the Face of History in 2006, both at the Barbican. My own personal favourite is a show she curated at The Photographers' Gallery in 2001 Richard Wentworth / Eugene Atget: Faux Amis for bringing together such an unexpected pairing of artist and photographer to reveal something unexpected about both of them.

To find out more about the Source-Cord Prize and how to take part see here.

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Source-Cord Prize

Today we are announcing a major international photography award with a first prize of $10,000. The award is a collaboration between Source and the Cord prize, which started in 2013. The aim of the prize is to discover new work and the first prize winner will be published in Source in November.

We are pleased to be working with Cord because the first edition of the Prize last year was notably well run and shortlisted a number of artists whose work we have been pleased to publish in recent years, including that of the winner, Eva Stenram. The emphasis this year is on an international perspective. Of the four judges that will be looking at the submitted work one is from Germany, Stefanie Grebe and one from Japan, Mariko Takeuchi. They will join Kate Bush (formerly of The Photographers' Gallery and Barbican Art Galleries) and Source editor John Duncan in selecting a shortlist of 25 photographers including the first prize of $10,000, a second prize of $1,000 and a third prize of $500.

To give some idea of the perspective of the judges we have conducted interviews with all four of them which we will publish here over the coming weeks. In the mean time you can find out all the relevant information about submitting to the prize on our dedicated Source-Cord Prize page or on the parallel Cord Prize site. We hope many of you will take part.

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