UrbanPhotoFest: Imprint of Space
"Using visual narratives this collective asks its audience to reflect upon and question how we situate ourselves in relation to the systems that epitomise our physical, social, and cultural surroundings"
To celebrate this year’s UrbanPhotoFest we sent Louise Higgs to check out the series of exhibitions participating in the Urban Photo Village across New Cross and Deptford. One show that particularly caught her eye was Imprint of Space, a comprehensive exploration of urban change via the medium of photography.
UrbanPhotoFest opened up for its ninth year at the beginning of November, collaborating with a number of London galleries and colleges, including Goldsmiths and the University of London. This year the focus was on Photography, Memory and the Archive. Across ten venues fifty four contributors exhibited their responses to the theme. Twelve of those artists, with varying backgrounds from Fine Art to Human Rights, came together for Imprint of Space, an exhibition that explored a range of responses to the idea of place in the urban landscape, drawing on issues of identity, migration, memory and narratives.
The body of work on show was diverse in cultural experiences, perspectives and practices, but read as a unified and cohesive show. The variation of works created a stimulating viewing experience; flitting from one artist to another the mind is stretched in one direction and then pulled in another, as each exhibitor conveyed their personal narrative. The most endearing aspect was the anecdotes provided by artists, shedding light on the significance of the images, allowing the viewer to gain insight into the history of the work.
Frida Wang focused on the abandonment of urban landscapes in the Eastern Chinese fishing village of Shidao. Photographing the skeletons of buildings Frida caught the visual omens that marked the end of their use, signifying the end of a society that once existed there. The series documents the dismantling of the artist's hometown and traditions, in preparation for modern urban life and the victory of nature as it begins to conquer.
In contrast, Marissa Diekhoff honed in on a section of Stratford High Street to document the recent and historical redevelopments in her series 150 High Street, a particular plot of land that presents conflicting narratives situated within it. Marissa’s series combined elements of language and photography to convey her memories and experiences of the plot as it regenerated over a period of time, digitally enhancing images to portray the distortion of her memory of what it once was.
The exhibition, beautifully curated in the former church building of St James Hatcham at Goldsmiths University, was a collective comment on the significance of our surroundings. Bringing to attention some of the things we miss, some of the things that change without us acknowledging, and some of the things we cannot fail to see, whilst also documenting the impacts these changes can have on human life within the urban landscape.
Using visual narratives this collective asks its audience to reflect upon and question how we situate ourselves in relation to the systems that epitomise our physical, social, and cultural surroundings. At a time when the tipping point of urban and rural habitants has been flipped; more of the world's population now live in urban environments than rural ones, this was an important show to reflect upon the day to day domains of the majority.
To catch up with the artists and work that was on show head over to the websites:
Frida Wang - from the series The Memory Fragments of the Hometown
Marissa Diekhoff - from the series 150 High Street
Written by Louise Higgs
Nov 9th 2016