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FotoFocus Biennial 2022 focuses on 'World Record' with photography, lens-based art

The 2022 edition of the biennial in Cincinnati, Ohio, is presenting more than 100 projects, featuring over 600 artists, curators, and participants in a month-long celebration.

by Vatsala SethiPublished on : Oct 08, 2022

It's not all black and white images, constructed composition, and good lighting when it comes to photography; look closer and you may just find yourself striking up intriguing discussions in context to the immersive works of art. Championing photography and lens-based art is the FotoFocus Biennial 2022, which is recently on display in Cincinnati, Ohio. Building on the strength of the present, the FotoFocus Biennial preserves itself fresh by embracing emerging artists and established artists. The month-long extravaganza that brings together visual artists, art curators, and educators from across the world to America's biennial, FotoFocus has a league of its own. It is an enterprising collaboration between FotoFocus and the region's art museums, galleries, universities, and non-traditional locations. Each project centres around this year's biennial theme, World Record, which considers photography's extensive record of life on earth, humankind's impact on the natural world, and the choices we now face as a global community. The contemporary art and historical projects illuminate a broad range of topics, including nature, science, and exploration; outer space and space travel; climate change and its impact; human social lives within various environments, cultural and natural; forms of energy, past and present; the cultivation of natural resources; and utopian and dystopian visions of a man in nature.

Two Bodies, 2017, Archival inkjet print, Leonard Suryajaya | FotoFocus Biennale | STIRworld
Two Bodies, 2017, Archival inkjet print, Leonard Suryajaya Image: Courtesy of Leonard Suryajaya

"This marks a monumental return to a month of dynamic programming in celebration of photography, with a record number of diverse venues participating in hosting exhibitions and programs," mentions FotoFocus Executive Director Mary Ellen Goeke in an official statement. "We are elated by the commitment of all our participating venues throughout the region and delighted that this expanded reach will bring the Biennial to new audiences," Goeke adds.

Music Hall, Image | FotoFocus Biennale| STIRworld
Music Hall Image: Courtesy of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Persuading visitors to ask queries such as, "What are the political conflicts of a given moment? What are the conversations around culture, social life, and humanity?", the Artistic Director and Curator, Kevin Moore, further adds that photography, with its singular connection to the visible world, is arguably the most apt medium for addressing the current state of things. "This year's FotoFocus Biennial, in keeping with past biennials, is a sweeping (if somewhat unruly) attempt at presenting a 'world record'. The exploration, depending on how you read the phrase, might be seen as record-breaking, offering the largest number of collectively and simultaneously organised photography exhibitions in a single American city (FotoFocus is the largest photography biennial in the country and 2022 is also our largest biennial to date) or, content-wise, as a massive, cumulative record of the world," the press release quotes Moore.

DALISON 1, 2022, Selected photographic work from DALISON. Documentation of site-specific intervention,Ian Strange | STIRworld
DALISON 1, 2022, Selected photographic work from DALISON. Documentation of site-specific intervention, Ian Strange Image: Ian Strange

Human-environmental connections have recently deteriorated resulting in disastrous climate change. Works that investigate humans' complicated and contentious connection with the environment, wilderness, nature, and location are on display at the group art exhibition On the Line: Documents of Risk and Faith at the Contemporary Arts Center. A curated exhibition for the 2022 FotoFocus Biennial, On the Line features work by Dawoud Bey, Mohamed Bourouissa, Mary Mattingly, Wendy Red Star and more. Another exhibition presented by CAC for the biennial is Images on which to build, 1970-the 1990s, featuring work by artists and archivist collectives whose late 20th century documentation illustrates how important LGBTQ+ image cultures sparked learning processes. Presented by National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the exhibition Free as they want to be: Artists Committed to Memory examines the role of historical and contemporary visual arts in remembering the legacies of slavery and efforts to explore the possibilities of freedom. Also exhibiting at the FotoFocus biennial is the Cincinnati Art Museum with Natural World, a commissioned collaboration between visual artists David Hartt and John Edmonds, poet and scholar Jason Allen-Paisant, and organising curator Nathaniel M. Stein. Furthermore, These Things Are Connected, a group show at Carnegie, brings together five curators from inside and outside the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region to choose and develop projects with artists from various geographies.

Passage, 2017, Inkjet print on Epson hot press natural, MohauModisakeng | FotoFocus Biennale | STIRworld
Passage, 2017, Inkjet print on Epson hot press natural, Mohau Modisakeng Image: Courtesy of FotoFocus Biennale, Part of the 21c collection. 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati

Solo exhibitions and site-specific art installations include multimedia artist Baseera Khan's new and recent collages, sculpture, and video at the Contemporary Arts Centre; a new commission of photographer Ian Strange's site-specific, light-based architectural interventions at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and an exhibition at Michael Lowe Gallery featuring archival works on the theme of water from Tony Oursler's personal collection, as well as original art installation, at Michael Lowe Gallery.

Pull, 2013, C-print, Mary Mattingly | FotoFocus Biennale | STIRworld
Pull, 2013, C-print, Mary Mattingly  Image: Mary Mattingly; Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery

Other projects at participating venues highlighted during Biennial Program Week include the Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library's installation of sound and photographs from their collection documenting natural disasters. An interesting take on hurricanes is presented by The Garfield Theater's film series, which explores hurricanes both scientifically and through sensory representations that evoke them experientially. Projects that focus on the built environment include The Annex Gallery's presentation of photographs by Cincinnati artist William Howes and Lebanese artist Gregory Buchackjian, documenting the destructive effacement of the architectural heritage of their respective cities; Meyers Gallery's exhibition of early 20th century works by photojournalist Paul Briol documenting the built and natural environment that continues to inform Cincinnati's sense of place, identity, and community, and Clifton Cultural Arts Center's look at the impact of pandemic lockdowns on New York City in photographs by internationally-exhibited artist Logan Hicks.

We Shall Overcome, 1964, Gelatin silver print,Steve Schapiro | FotoFocus Biennale | STIRworld
We Shall Overcome, 1964, Gelatin silver print, Steve Schapiro Image: Steve Schapiro; Courtesy of Miami University Art Museum, McKie Gallery

FotoFocus is a non-profit organisation founded in 2010 in Cincinnati to celebrate and support photography as the medium of our time via programming that sparks a discussion between modern lens-based art and the history of photography. The programme includes keynote lectures, conversations, screenings, and receptions with exceptional artists and curators. The 2022 FotoFocus Biennial Program Week, which runs till October 8, 2022, constitutes the core of the Biennial, establishing the theme and dialogues that unite the broader programming.

  • Drive-In Movie (after Ballard), 2015, Materials, Liz Roberts | FotoFocus Biennale | STIRworld
    Drive-In Movie (after Ballard), 2015, Materials, Liz Robert Image: Stephen Takacs; Courtesy of Liz Roberts
  • LIGHT INTERSECTIONS II, 2021, Site-specific light installation, Sydney, Australia, Ian Strange| FotoFocus Biennale | STIRworld
    LIGHT INTERSECTIONS II, 2021, Site-specific light installation, Sydney, Australia, Ian Strange Image: Ian Strange
  • Installation at the biennale Video: Courtesy of FotoFocus Biennale

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