Curated Highlights: Alona Pardo's Selection from Photo London Digital II

Alona Pardo
Sep 22, 2021 11:14AM

The novelty of experiencing work in the flesh at this year’s iteration of Photo London after last year’s digital encounter was both a pleasure and a privilege. While my eyes were rewarded with wonderful examples of work by the likes of James Barnor, Jo Spence and Poulomi Basu amongst many others, my soul was lifted at the sheer delight of encountering old and new friends. As we tentatively emerge out of the chaos of the last 18 months that has radically shifted our frames of reference and prompted us to re-examine urgent questions of social and gender inequity and climate justice, my selection is rooted in a desire to pinpoint work that responds to this new and heightened reality.

With this in mind, I made a beeline for the Richard Saltoun Gallery whose commitment to showcasing conceptual and performance feminist artists from the 1960s onwards is unparalleled in the UK art world. I was not disappointed. Exploring the way that gender is constructed is a recurring motif across much of the work at Photo London. Questioning the assumption of naturalism within photography though role-play and performance and drawing attention to the codification of gender more broadly, Jo Spence’s powerful and violent work Remodelling Photo History: Victimization presents a naked female body spread face down in a rural setting by a gate clearly forbidding entry, highlighting the exclusion of women from heteropatriarchal structures.

Also at Richard Saltoun, Alexis Hunter’s Sexual Warfare, 1975, a series of 18 photographs in which we see Hunter holding everyday domestic objects that have been instrumentalised as weapons - from a shoe to a frying pan - invites us to think about sexism and misogyny.

Re-encountering Sam Taylor Johnson’s early irreverent work FUCK-SUCK-SPANK-WANK brought a smile to my face and although more blunt in its exploration of feminism, felt refreshing.

Poulomi Basu’s solo booth at TJ Boulting of her critically acclaimed project Centralia that narrates a complex story of ecofeminism, resistance, extractive capitalism and Indigenous rights was a highlight and feels urgent in these uncertain times as she pushes the documentary genre to its expansive limits:

The Cairo-based gallery Tintera presented two series of photo-collages by Ibrahim Ahmed. For You Can’t Recognise what you don’t knowAhmed photographs and then fragments and deconstructs his own male body, questioning inherited notions of masculinity while contesting the stereotypes of Middle Eastern masculinity.

Alona Pardo
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019