Marcelo Brodsky: ‘1968 – The Fire of Ideas’ / Reviewed by Rory Duckhouse / 19.05.17
The year 1968 witnessed the rise of worldwide protests against military and bureaucratic elites across the globe. In America, protests raged against the Vietnam War; in France there were student uprisings in the month of May; anti-nuclear marches occurred throughout the world. The political unrest of 1968 seemed palpable and there were people eager to use their human right to protest to get their voices heard and try to change things.
Marcelo Brodsky has mined archives to find images from this period and has appropriated these, adding extra context through text to explore broader social issues. Images of workers’ protests sit alongside demonstrations against military regimes in oppressed countries. The exhibition features images from all over the world, highlighting protests in Argentina, Japan, Germany, Senegal, Portugal, Colombia, Canada, Australia, America and many other places. Brodsky owned and directed a photo agency in Latin America, and his understanding of picture editing has been used in this exhibition to use text and graphic devices to try and shift viewer’s perspectives.
Brodsky has coloured in parts of the black and white images to bring a sense of light to the protests. This lifts the works from archival images into something more alive, more colourful and more powerful – moving the protests from something that happened in the past to something that could happen today.
In one image with the written title The Poor Peoples Campaign Washington 1968 a collection of people are seen lifting their fists to the sky; these fists are coloured in orange to highlight this gesture of defiance. The raised fist as a recognised symbol of solidarity and support has been used in many demonstrations, and it is used successfully in several works. For example, in an image titled Rio de Janeiro 1968, the artist has highlighted a series of women linking hands to highlight their shared bond in demonstrating against injustice. The use of this graphic device is powerful in the way it portrays shared themes of resistance.
At times there is a tension between the text and images as they fight for attention and sometimes the text overpowers the image. The images of mass protests hold so much power but this is diluted by the text over the top, making the point too obvious as the viewer is denied the intrigue of the image by being given too much information. The text can often seem too didactic, too obvious in its message where the images might have been enough; a hint to the context of the image may have been more powerful than too much information.
The theme for the Diffusion 2017 photography festival taking place all across Cardiff this month is Revolution, and in such tumultuous political times, The Fire of Ideas seems prevalent. With the rise of the political right and unexpected political shifts the work responds to revolution, politically, culturally and sociologically. Today we face uncertain times and the political fervour is palpable, people often feel powerless in the face of political pressure. This exhibition shows a resistance to these forces, showing the power of protest in the way it shaped the world in 1968. The work should act as a call for action to today’s generations, to get out on the streets and change the world for the better.
– reviewed for Photomonitor by Rory Duckhouse
Marcelo Brodsky’s exhibition 1968 The Fire of Ideas continues at Ffotogallery, Cardiff until 31 May 2017, as part of the Diffusion Cardiff International Festival of Photography.
Ffotogallery at Turner House
Plymouth Road, Penarth CF64 3DH