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Sussex art historian puts activism in the picture for Brighton Photo Biennial 2012
University of Sussex art historian Dr Ben Burbridge shares the honours as joint curator of the fifth Brighton Photo Biennial (BPB 2012).
Dr Burbridge’s research on photography underpins a provocative programme for 2012, which he has curated with Celia Davies for Photoworks, the visual arts organisation responsible for the Biennial.
Entitled ‘Agents of Change: Photography and the politics of space’, BPB12 will feature events under the themes of activism, conflict and the role of photography in recording and shaping the urban environment.
Among the programme’s highlights are several events involving the University of Sussex:
- Critical Image Cairo: A group exhibition examining images of revolutionary Cairo and including new work by Ronnie Close and Alternative News Agency. The exhibition, in the Arts A gallery, runs for the entire Biennial and is open 11am-5pm, Monday to Saturday.
- Screening and Talk with Ronnie Close: Irish artist and filmmaker Ronnie Close screens extracts from his work and discusses the research and ideas underpinning his practice. Close’s most recent project, Ultras, looks at groups of non-sectarian football supporters who have been protesting in Cairo following the death of 74 fans during street protests in February 2012. Hosted by the Sussex student Art Society, the event takes place on 8 October at 6pm in Fulton B lecture theatre.
- BPB12 Symposium: Photography’s Contested Spaces: A one-day symposium on the political challenges and possibilities faced by photography today. Topics will include the online flow of activist imagery; occupation and the image; citizen photography; cuts to public arts funding; and the museum as a political site. Speakers include Professor Sally Jane Norman (director of the Attenborough for the Creative Arts), other Sussex academics, leading artists and curators. In association with the National Media Museum. Tickets for the event, from 10am–5.30pm on 20 October at the Creativity Zone, cost £10.
- The Crit: Curators, photographers and artists present and critique work at an alternative style portfolio review that puts industry representatives and new practitioners on an equal footing. The event runs 10am-5.30pm on 27 October at the multipurpose Creativity Zone, part of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts.
Dr Burbridge says: “The wave of occupations prompted by government austerity measures has resulted in renewed interest in the politics of space, both within academia and beyond.
“I hope the Biennial can provide the space to think about the complex ways in which photography intersects with these ideas, and the interesting dialogues taking place between art and activism at the moment.
“I am delighted that the University of Sussex is playing such a prominent role in this year’s Biennial, hosting exhibitions, lectures, symposia and through the involvement of staff and students.”
In addition to these events, the artist and photographer Anthony Luvera will be training 16 undergraduate art historians to act as workshop leaders at Brighton gallery Fabrica and at the Brighton Argus exhibition in Jubilee Square, where they will guide 90 sixth-form visitors through sessions based around the exhibitions.
Developed in co-operation with the Widening Participation team, the aim is to introduce sixth-formers from state schools in Brighton and Sussex to art history, which is often not taught in state schools.
The sixth-formers will also visit the Critical Image Cairo exhibition at the University and take a campus tour to get a taste of university life. It is hoped that the project will become an annual event.
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