Us and them
Once every three years something exciting
happens in Jyväskylä – LUMO the International Photography Triennial comes to
town. This year celebrates the 7th LUMO event with the theme of ‘us’ and like the previous six, promises
everything one should expect of an internationally renowned triennial.
The theme of ‘us’ has attracted photographers whose work challenges notions of
communality and identity. The exhibition has been designed to test the
boundaries of cultural preconceptions and socio-political phenomena. This year
photographers are arriving from four different continents to dismantle and
magnify stereotypes of the exotic, pioneer mythologies, forgotten recent
history and the concealed present.
Images and subject matter are both unsettling
and controversial. Particularly in the works of South African artist Pieter
Hugo, where in the series Looking Aside
(2005) we are faced with images such as that of Londiwe Wendy Mkhize. Discomfort arises when the
seemingly ‘white’-skinned girl is recognised for her features as a native South
African. From the perspective of a Northern European it seems difficult to
grasp that the skin colour that is generally accepted and desired in the
Western world is quite literally a disease for those outside the European
Likewise, fellow South African artist Mikhael Subotzky
has produced images which expose what life is like inside and after prison. For
the series Die Vier Hoeke (2005) Subotzky visited Pollsmoor Prison, Nelson Mandela’s former
lock-up, to reveal conditions in which numerous native South African prisoners
are literally piled into single cells. The cells consist of several bunk beds
on which the lucky ones have a chance to sleep. The not-so-lucky ones are
forced to sleep back-to-back on the cold cement floor.
In the works of Cairo-based Lara Baladi cultural-hybridity
is expressed through blends of religious iconography, nature photographs and
pop culture relics. The brightly coloured panoramic montage of Justice for the Mother (2007) draws many associations to the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album
cover, and not surprisingly the Beatles’ Lone Hearts Club Band has been placed
in this mythological paradise underneath a giant rhinoceros.
The cultural infiltration of communism is subtly
reflected in the works of Cuban photographers José A. Figueroa and Alejandro González. In
the series The Cuban Sixties Figueroa attempts to capture
the rebellious undercurrent of youth who craved for individuality in the face
of mass conformity, and in the series the City
of Havana (2005), González captures quiet reminders of Cuba’s past
political unrest. Lenin
Park is revisited with
its monuments, abandoned equipment and old army trucks that picnicking families
and grazing cows seem oblivious to.
Finally, in addition to Charlotte
Haslund-Christensen’s questioning of authenticity through re-capturing poses of
Danish explorers in Natives: The Danes (2006), Young Finnish Artists of the Year
2007, Jaana and Tiina Penttinen capture the dynamics of family and friend
relations in the confines of cultural protocol in their series Hyvät Tavat (Good
Other featured photographers include Dale
Yudelman (South Africa), Raúl Cordero (Cuba)
and Rana ElNemr (Egypt).
LUMO ’07 ‘us’ runs June 9th
– September 30th, at Gallery Harmonia Jyväskylä.