Public: Collective Identity: Occupied Space
Ai Weiwei

April 28 - May 30, 2012

Contact Photography Festival/University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto, Canada

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This two-venue exhibition, Public: Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces, brings together images from around the world to explore the ways we perform and articulate our identity in public, and the tensions that arise from the occupation of public space.

The works at the University of Toronto Art Centre suggest that the role photography plays in engaging conflict can be as contested as the spaces it represents. As cameras have become ubiquitous and networked, photography has become an ever more important component of social change.

Noh Suntag (b. South Korea, based in Seoul) explores the political and social life of modern Korea. His series String Pulling Incident (2008 – 9), documents’ the months-long mass protests against the South Korean government brought about by the decision to allow the re-importation of US beef after the mad cow crisis.

Benjamin Lowy (b. United States, based in New York) presents two related takes on his experiences as a photojournalist working with US forces in Iraq / Perspectives (2003 – 8). Windows captures street scenes of Bagdad framed by the portholes of armored personnel carriers. The second series, Nightvision, records the actions of US troops as they use the cover of darkness to interact with the local population.

Richard Mosse (b. Ireland, based in Dublin) creates an extensive series of lush images of war-torn, eastern Congo, entitled Infra (2010 – 11). Using Kodak’s infrared Aerochrome film, which was developed in collaboration with US military to reveal camouflaged positions, the photographs are Mosse’s attempt to make visible the invisible aspects of conflict.

Ariella Azoulay (b. Israel, based in Tel-Aviv) is an academic, author, curator and activist whose ongoing research explores the relations between photography and citizenship. Her project Different Ways not to Say Deportation (2010) is based on photographs taken between 1947 and 1950, which she viewed at the International Committee of the Red Cross Archives in Geneva.

Tarek Abouamin (b. Egypt, based in Halifax) is a cinematographer, filmmaker and university lecturer. In his documentary film 18 Days (2011), he captures the pulse of the Egyptian Revolution from Pierre Sioufi’s 9th floor apartment overlooking Tahrir Square, which served a hub for revolutionaries, journalists, and news networks. His curated project, Preparing for Dawn (2011), including 480 photographs selected from 8000 images gathered at the Tahrir Square Media Centre, offers a multi-faceted, photographic engagement with the uprising that led to the overthrow of the Egyptian regime.

Sanaz Mazinani (b. Iran, based in San Francisco and Toronto) creates work that explores the political and social effects of digital culture. The large circular objects from her series, Conference of the Birds (2012), are complex patterns of media-sourced imagery documenting the Occupy Movement (Toronto, Amsterdam and Rome) and the Arab Spring (Cairo, Sidi Bouzid, and Tripol).

Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber (b. Austria, based in Vancouver and Vienna) have been exploring the politics of urban space for over 20 years. Templeton Five Affair, March 1967 (2010), part of their project The University Paradox, reactivates the 1967 student protests at Simon Fraser University. The nine photographs of Events Are Always Original (2010) contain archival images that document the aftermath of a student occupation of the campus.

Ai Weiwei (b. China, based in Beijing) is an architect and artist who focuses on political, cultural and social criticism in his work. His series Study of Perspective (1995 – 2010), documents his performative gesture of giving the finger to iconic landmarks, objects and cityscapes around the world. Blurring lines between art and advocacy, Ai’s images highlight the social and political effectiveness of photography as a tool for activist expression.

Organized with the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and University of Toronto Art Centre

Curated by Matthew Brower, David Liss and Bonnie Rubenstein