Sussex art historian puts activism in the picture for Brighton Photo Biennial 2012

Ronnie Close, Ultra Camp outside the Parliament, March 2012. © Ronnie Close

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 an exciting and 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. It includes new work by Ronnie Close and Alternative News Agency. The exhibition, in the Arts A gallery at the University of Sussex, runs for the entire Biennial and is open to the public, free of charge between 11am and 5pm Monday to Saturday.
  • 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 ACCA director Sally Jane Norman, Sussex academics, leading artists and curators. In association with the National Media Museum. Tickets for the event, on 20 October at the Creativity Zone, University of Sussex (20am – 5.30pm) cost £10 and can be booked online.
  • 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, entry is free and the event  takes place on 08 October in Fulton B lecture theatre on the University campus.
  • 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. Participants will be selected by the Biennial on application. Entry is free. The event runs from 10am to 5.30pm on 27 October at the University’s multipurpose Creativity Zone, part of the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on campus.

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 cooperation with the University’s 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.

Notes for Editors

The fifth Brighton Photo Biennale – Agents of Change: Photography and the Politics of Space – runs at various venues across Brighton and Hove and on the University of Sussex campus from 6 October to 4 November 2012.

Exhibitions and installations are free; some workshops, Q&As and screenings have an entry fee.

See the BPB12 web site for full programme and details.

Dr Ben Burbridge lectures in the History and Theory of Photography and Post-war American and European Art at the University of Sussex.  He has written widely on photography and its histories for a range of journals, magazines, books and catalogues and has curated several exhibitions including: We Are Witnessing the Dawn of an Unknown Science (Permanent Gallery, Brighton, 2007); No Passaran! Robert Capa and the Spanish Civil War (Charleston Farmhouse Gallery, Firle, 2007) and The Daily Nice Take Away (Kunsthaus, Essen, 2010).

Since 2003, he has worked with the visual arts organisation Photoworks, most recently as Programme Curator and the Co-Editor of Photoworks magazine. Here he has been involved with the commissioning and production of a wide range of photographic projects, publications and exhibitions.

Dr Burbridge is currently working on a major exhibition of scientific imagery to be shown at The Science Museum, London, in 2013.

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Last updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2012