A unique collaboration between the British Council and The Photographers' Gallery London, this exhibition will bring together young artists from all over the United Kingdom to provide a picture of the latest developments in British photography and video. From framed prints to video installation, from projected images to three dimensional works, Reality Check investigates the full range of photography's contemporary repertoire.
Each participating artist could be described as sharing a belief in the camera's capacity to transform real experience - whether through re-enactment and visual replay or through rigorous observation and obsessive documentation - into the realm of the poetic. Thus, all the work in the exhibition is inspired by events, situations or phenomenon observed and experienced in the real world; from global conflict to domestic routine, from pornography to personal relationships. Yet none of the artists pursues a simple form of realist or documentary photography. Instead a variety of artistic strategies are used - parody, allegory, comedy, appropriation, voyeurism, performance, anecdote - in order to enrich the video's or photograph's ability to describe the world around us. In constantly shifting between the real and the imagined, the perceived and the pretend, the work in Reality Check exhibits a strong sense of displacement, and a related fascination in human subjects who are dislocated in some way, whether emotionally, socially or physically, from themselves and the external world.
The exhibition has been co-curated by Kate Bush, Senior Programmer, The Photographers' Gallery, London and Brett Rogers, Head of Exhibitions, The British Council, London.
Exhibiting artists will include Roderick Buchanan (video), Kate Buxey (video), Phil Collins (photo and video), Alan Currall (video), Graham Fagen (photo), Dryden Goodwin (video, photo), Luke Gottelier (photo), Saskia Olde Wolbers (video), Nigel Shafran (photo), Lesley Shearer (photo), David Shrigley (photos /drawings), Keith Tyson (installation), Michelle Williams (video), Shizuka Yokomizo (photo), Bettina von Zwehl (photo).
A fully illustrated catalogue with introductory text by Kate Bush, Senior Programmer at the Photographers' Gallery as well as individual texts on the artists by Brett Rogers will accompany the show. Available from www.cornerhouse.org
ISBN 0 86355 504 7
Existing or coming into being at the same period; of today or of the present. The term that designates art being made today.
The term ‘Documentary’ was not coined until the 1920s, and then used by the British film-maker, John Grierson, to refer to moving pictures. It has a long and continuous history in British photography, reaching back to the invention of the medium. Many critics claimed that the documentary impulse, which can perhaps be best defined as the systematic recording of visual reality for the purpose of providing information and encouraging understanding of the world, is inherent in the medium itself. It was this view which came to be known as the realist paradigm - the belief that a photograph represents a ‘slice of reality’ easily understood by the viewer. This belief governed understanding of photography from the moment of its invention in the era of positivism in the 19th Century, until it was itself subject to interrogation in the 1980s.
Early British practitioners included John Thomson whose visual essay Street Life in London (1876) documented the life of the London poor, and Hill and Adamson who portrayed, in the mid 1840s, the customs and way of life of the fisher folk of Newhaven near Edinburgh. In the early 20th century, following the emergence of documentary film-making and Mass Observation (a study undertaken in the North of England by the anthropologist Tom Harrisson), this new aesthetic found its most persuasive outlet in the mass circulation weekly magazines, such as Picture Post and Life. In time, however, pressure from advertisers combined with the restrictions of group journalism and curtailed the independence of creative photographers, with only exceptional individuals such as Bill Brandt able to survive as both a photojournalist and an independent photographer. His images of Britain’s class-ridden society along with his more experimental nudes, portraits and landscapes had a profound influence on a younger generation and established Brant as a major creative force in the development of modernism in Britain.
Mass Observation was designed to emulate the radical achievements of the worker-photography movement which had arisen in Germany during the 1920s. It proved influential on the evolution of British documentary, especially on those photographers associated with the Side Gallery in Newcastle. The gallery fostered a regional, community-oriented form of documentary practice. Its philosophy was rooted firmly in the notion that an authentic document can only be generated by those familiar with the local community. Photographers associated with Side Gallery included Sirkka Konttinen, Isabella Jedrecyck, Graham Smith, Peter Fryer, Chris Killip and Julian Germain.
It was, however, across the Atlantic that the more enduring legacy concerning the ethics and status of documentary was to be found in the work of the photographers employed by the Farm Security Administration to document the plight of the American rural poor during the Depression. One of its outstanding photographers was Walker Evans whose use of signs and symbols (such as billboards and advertising hoardings) as images of desire created a text or narrative to accompany the careful sequencing of images. The direct inheritors of the photograph as social sign were the American photographers of the ‘social landscape’, namely Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus whose unsympathetic vision of the American landscape reflected the anxieties of urban life during the booming consumer decade - store fronts, billboards, graffiti and advertising. They chose to portray people, situations and artefacts in a casual and objective way that allowed the viewer to interpret the work freely; a strategy that became known as the ‘snapshot aesthetic’. One of those who experienced many of these developments first hand was the British photographer Tony Ray-Jones. His work was widely reproduced in the 1960s and his book A Day Off (1974) proved a particular inspiration for the generation of documentary photographers who developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The work of early documentary photographs can be found in the collections of the Royal Photographic Society www.rps.org)
The Mass Observation archive is held by the University of Sussex www.sussex.ac.uk/library/massobs/
The work of the Side Gallery can be seen at www.amber-online.com/gallery/
The archive for the Farm Security Administration is now in the Print and Reading Room Collections of the Library of Congress in Washington www.loc.gov/rr/print
An artwork comprised of many and various elements of miscellaneous materials (see mixed media), light and sound, which is conceived for and occupies an entire space, gallery or site. The viewer can often enter or walk around the installation. Installations may only exist as long as they are installed, but can be re-created in different sites. Installation art emerged in the 1960s out of Environmental Art (works of art which are three-dimensional environments), but it was not until the 1970s that the term came into common use and not until the late 1980s that artists started to specialise in this kind of work, creating a genre of ‘Installation Art’. The term can also be applied to the arrangement of selected art works in an exhibition.
Images recorded on videotape or on optical disc to be viewed on television screens, or projected onto screens. The medium through which these images are recorded and displayed.
Latvia, Riga, Arsenals
- 16 October 2003 − 09 March 2004
Poland, Krakow, Bunkier Sztuki Gallery Of Contemporary Art
- 16 June 2003 − 09 March 2004
Czech Republic, Prague, Galerie Rudolfinium
- 05 March 2003 − 09 March 2004
Croatia, Zagreb, House Of Artists
- 15 January 2003 − 09 March 2004
UK, London, 14 Wharf Road
- 23 October 2002 − 09 March 2004
Slovenia, Ljubljana, Moderna Galerija
- 29 August 2002 − 09 March 2004