Essays:

> Another Europe

Hamish Park / Another Europe

July 2018

What links ladies playing bingo at the port in Gozo with a young woman with her head in a box, or women and children eating in the back of a horse drawn cart with a work bench at the opera house in Lisbon? Another Europe, an outdoor photographic exhibition, brings together these and the work of a total of 28 photographers in response to the theme of European cultural heritage. The project was conceived by the Austrian Cultural Forum London in part to mark Austria’s Presidency of the Council of Europe on 1 July 2018 but also to address an increased desire by UK partners and artists to stay connected to Europe in the wake of the Brexit vote. The photographs are mounted on 14 specially designed benches which will be presented outside Austria for the first time. The site of the exhibition is Pancras Square and its vicinity, close to the Eurostar terminus, and runs from 12 July until 9 August.

The exhibition was originally conceived of with Austria as its theme however Britain’s announcement that it was to leave the EU in March 2019 led the Director of the ACF to decide that a European theme was more appropriate. Accordingly, photographers from each country in the EU were asked to contribute to what may be the last pan-EU exhibition on these shores before Britain’s exit.

Consonant with the designation of this as the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the photographers were encouraged to respond to the theme in broad terms: not just the material aspects of cultural heritage but also its social and economic dimensions and traditions and the way these are transmitted.

From the submissions we received I have tried to craft an exhibition which is illustrative of the common themes which define cultural heritage whilst suggesting that there are particularities which make each nation’s heritage distinctive. So, this was another Europe in as much as some of it might be unfamiliar, but it is intended to be a narrative of the cultural heritage which as Europeans we share. With only 28 images, this is understandably a selective narrative.

Whilst there are a significant number of themes, let me illustrate with two of those – cultural influence and religion – how I see the pictures fitting together. The spine of the exhibition is provided by the material aspects of cultural heritage. These start in antiquity, the foundation of much of European cultural heritage, as seen in Massimo Vitali’s stunning image of Rome, progress via Marlot-Chopard’s startling image of towering Gothic spires, and reaches its apotheosis in Jeanette Hagglund’s bold and graphic diptych of modern architecture. However, there is a fourth image which links these three: Alvaro’s Deprit’s image of the Alhambra. This hints at the extraordinary influence which Islamic culture had on European cultural heritage via the rediscovery of the classical world (Vitali) in the late medieval period (Marlot-Chopard) and its continuing influence as seen in Riccardo Bofill’s Moorish inspired buildings (Hagglund).

The significance of religion and of the institution of the church is seen in Emil Danailov’s picture of the blessing of honey on the saint’s day, in Marketa Luskacova’s carnival revellers and in Romuladas Pozerskis’ image of Lithuanian pilgrims halting to eat lunch on their journey to worship at the shrine. These hint at practical ways in which religion provides a structure to the way in which time is demarcated and ritual to mark significant life changes. Aspects of this are seen in Georgios Tatakis’ sinuous line of dowry carriers and of Petra Lajdova’s Nefertiti-like image of the elaborate headdresses worn by Slovak women after marriage.

Another aspect of the exhibition is that it seeks to use examples drawn from a wide range of photographic practise: we have classic portraits, views, landscapes, reportage, architectural and industrial photography, still life, and experimental work; work which is in black and white, work which is in colour; analogue and digital; artificial and natural light. By including many styles and approaches to photography I am trying to inform the audience of the breadth of photographic possibility. It is my hope that in doing so the audience will appreciate that photography does not have to be any one thing, that all forms are potentially valid and, ultimately, that good pictures can come in any form and be of any subject.

The exhibition deliberately presents a range of photographers from the internationally renowned, to those who have established careers, to those who are just starting to establish their careers. Regardless of the stage in their careers each individual has produced an image which is striking and which, I hope, will inspire the audience to explore their work further. Ultimately it is a great pleasure to be able to bring together the work of so many talented individuals, even if this is only represented by a single image.

Inevitably with an exhibition of this sort, sited where it is, at the time it is, the audience is unknowable. However, whilst I have tried to suggest that these images are illustrative of a set of ideas about the theme of cultural heritage and cohere to make arguments about aspects of that theme, I have tried to choose images which are sufficiently interesting and different that hopefully there is something here for everyone to appreciate. It is my hope that no matter what an individual’s knowledge of photography there will be something here to interest and inspire them, and even, perhaps make them laugh.

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By Hamish Park

Curator of the exhibition Another Europe

Thursday 12 July – Thursday 9 August 2018
Kings Cross to St Pancras Square

www.acflondon.org

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With thanks to Hamish Park and Austrian Cultural Forum London for permission to reproduce this essay