Monday, 27 March 2017

Format Festival Highlights.



Format was exhausting but enjoyable with lots of real faces put to virtual faces, short conversations and missed meetings.

The range of photography on display is quite something and shows the ways in which photography operates functionally rather than as a unified whole. It's not a single industry, it's a series of extremely delineated tag-ons which are bounded by mental divides. They all share the same problem however - how do you make the story you want to tell interesting. Basically there is work where the story is told primarily through the photography, there is work where the story is told primarily through fabrication, there are those who consider the audience when telling their stories and provide a way in, and there are those who don't do this. It's too obvious is sometimes the rationale as though being obvious was in some way bad (sorry Shakespeare, power struggle, forbidden love, mad  king, it's too obvious!.)

The stories? They to tend towards the scientific and informational, and the tone can be somewhat lecturing at times, like a bad text book. Sometimes a bit more confidence in showing work would help hook viewers into what is on show, sometimes a bit more consideration that yes, actually, entertainment is a part of the show, would help. But overall it's a great mix.

Anyways, here are some of my favourite things.



I really liked Hannah Smith's mad installation , The Malfunction Model, that looks like something out of Mars Attacks. It hooked me in visually and the statement (the installation mirrored a sight disorder ) tied in perfectly.


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A lot, I mean A LOT, of people try to visualise sight disorders and it rarely works. This was great.





Lisa Barnard's overview of the global gold industry was transformed into a three wall projection of a web-based documentary by Alejandro Acin. IT was visually striking, interactive (there weren't too many interactive displays) and was wonderfully ambitious in presentation. There were some technical hitches (it's a work in progress) but you can see the direction it's going in which is fantastic.




The presentation of Ying Ang's Gold Coast project  caught the eye. Rather than having a dry statement on the wall, the text drew this viewer right in - and by the time I got round to it, I needed to be drawn in. It looked simple but a lot of thought went into this. It worked.



My favourite picture of the whole show was the one above (from 1904) from the engaging and very traditonal studio photography exhibition, People, Places and Things. Just timeless.



The most photogenic installation was this virtual reality one by Kenta Cobayshi.  The irony of the virtual reality thing was that you end up on a boat in this magical seascape with a big black shadow and then look down and there's  a talking head video. My brain was aching after a rather demanding week so I didn't quite know what was going on by this time, but it looked great and I just let it flow over me. Which is sometimes all you need to do.




The most-photographed peeling paint award goes to the Pearson Building, one of the incredible locations that make Format such an enjoyable festival. We all channelled our inner Aaron Siskind with those walls, including Julie from Magnum. Half the pleasure at Format is in the buildings themselves and the non-photographic displays on show at places like the museum and Pickford house..



These displays were put to great effect at the New Ornithologies exhibition at Joseph Wright's old house where Rodrigo Orantia integrated the photobook images of birds with the exhibits. And what a great location for the subject.



I like maps and Carlos Alba's map of London was really nice. As was Truth Leem's graphic example of insecure Seoul living.



Animals at night. I love these. I want to do this in my allotment but why bother because Lee Deigaard has done it so well (not sure about the statement though).



The best jellyfish award goes to the hotel I stayed at. As does the best electrics and many other things.




And the best food award. Derby is supposed to have some of the best Japanese food in the UK because of the nearby Toyota plant, but I didn't get to sample that. Instead I got the best thali and dosa I've had outside South India. Absolutely brilliant!





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