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Parallel / Between two rounds / l’entre-deux-tours: Parallel – European Photo Based Platform.

Parallel / Between two rounds / l’entre-deux-tours: Parallel – European Photo Based Platform.

Just under a year ago in Lisbon, the European project Parallel – European Photo Based Platform was officially launched: a network bringing together 18 recognised European institutions from 16 different countries (festivals, museums or magazines), photographers and emerging curators. The initial idea of this platform is to reduce barriers between these different professions by promoting mentoring. From 2017 to 2021, each year Parallel proposes a cycle during which emerging photographers are accompanied on a new project by a tutor: curator, critic or photographer.  Then young curators invite these photographers to exhibitions in festivals or partner institutions. One year later, it is time for a review of this structure.

In Zagreb, at the beginning of September 2018, in the framework of the 10th anniversary of the Organ Vida festival, the scale of the project was unveiled with an exhibition featuring 52 artists who were closing the first cycle and starting the second. On the occasion of this exhibition, many of the participants came: photographers and young curators of both cycles, directors of institutions and tutors. It was a strong moment of exchange but also a time of questioning, with the idea of continuing to develop this project after this experimental year. Some of the partners left, like the Charleroi Museum of Photography (Belgium) while Yet Magazine (Switzerland) joined the ship. New tutors, such as Monica Alcazar Duarte, photographer, or Marta Ponsa from the Jeu de Paume in Paris, accompany the newly recruited photographers on their commissions.

One of the major changes in this new cycle is the discontinuation of nominations by the partner institutions through an open call for applications. As a result, more than 700 applications were received, from which 28 photographers and 7 curators were selected. The partners thus question and discuss: why not continue the previous appointment system? Why not open to artists from other continents such as Asia or Africa, South America? Other topics are more sensitive, for example remuneration. Apart from gaining increased visibility, how can we reward the photographers who will spend a year on this project?

To fully understand the project’s ideals, one can consider a quote from Jens Friis, founder of the Danish magazine Katalog, member of Parallel since the beginning. “To show young photography is in our DNA; Parallel seemed to us to be a good tool to support this generation of authors and curators.”

From the outside, the project may seem complex. To fully understand how this had materialized in the field for all these participants during the first cycle, we started from Parallel’s diagram and had a closer look at four participants connected by the formalised structure, and who collaborated in one way or another. Here are the testimonies of a photographer, Antonina Gugała; a tutor, the photographer Federico Clavarino; an emerging curator Emese Mucsi and an institution through the testimony of Jenny Nordquist, artistic director of the Landskrona Foto Festival.

 

Antonina Gugała/ Emerging photographer

Antonina Gugała, is a Polish photographer born in 1989. It was through the Lodz Festival in Poland that she was invited to take part in this first cycle. She had already had participated in several group exhibitions and had just completed her first solo exhibition in Poland as well as publishing two photobook dummies. It was Gugała’s work called ‘Histories’ that started in Greece that she wanted to develop during Parallel. She explains the background to her images:

“ ‘Histories’ constitutes a visual record of an ongoing investigation on identity formation and the role of material culture in this process. The photographic series focuses on affinities between everyday objects found in Greece throughout 2017 and ancient Greek artefacts from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw. These understated expressions of everyday life are juxtaposed with a set of images of ancient Greek objects which are hand-held by museum workers in order to display their inventory numbers. The everyday objects serve as a metaphor for the peculiar stage in history, when the new order of things has not been established yet, and provisory but livable settings are still underway . Their stories are chronicled in detailed writing allowing the viewer access to their complex past.”

When Gugała arrived in Lisbon a little less than a year ago, her expectation of the Parallel platform was above all to meet artists and curators from all over Europe, to build a network but never to imagine meeting more people in 10 days than in two years in Poland or Czech Republic, where she studies. Different levels of collaborations have been useful to her to develop her second chapter of ‘Histories’ with the enriching exchanges with her tutor, the photographer Federico Calvarino whom she describes as inspiring and attentive; this mentoring allowed her to re-think or decomplex her text-photo relationship. These interactions and demonstrations have allowed Gugała to experiment with new forms of hanging, for example in the form of a huge wallpaper for Zagreb, while with the support of the curator Emese Mucsi she will present in Landskrona both her pieces framed and a poster hanging on the wall, that each spectator can take away during his visit to the exhibition.

 

Federico Clavarino / Tutor photographer

Antonina Gugała’s tutor was Italian photographer Federico Clavarino. This mentorship was beneficial for both: “We worked on one part of a larger project called ‘Histories’, which is made up of different chapters and that addresses important social, political and historical issues that I deem to be very relevant nowadays, by means of a multi-layered narrative in which the medium of photography is always approached from a slightly different angle,” explained Clavarino.

As for the Parallel network, for him it gives opportunity to work with a lot of young practitioners from different countries and backgrounds. This is always very formative, and often a very intense human experience. But for the following editions of Parallel, an essential element to re-think for him in the future, is that the tutors will be able to follow the emerging photographer until the end of the program; this didn’t happen during this first cycle.

 

Emese Mucsi / Emerging curator

The young Hungarian curator Emese Mucsi has a comprehensive vision of what the platform has allowed her to achieve. Having graduated from the Faculty of Contemporary Art Theory and Curatorial Studies at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2013, and from the Faculty of Hungarian Literature and Linguistics at the University of Szeged in 2017 Mucsi is editor of Artmagazin Online (artmagazin.hu) and has been involved in organizing contemporary art exhibitions as a freelance curator since 2013. She is a board member of the Hungarian Section of AICA (International Association of Art Critics), and recently served as curator of Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Center, Budapest.

Her interest in Parallel network came from her desire to work with a photographic festival. It was this opportunity that was most dear to her and Parallel effectively facilitated this interaction as she was able to collaborate with Jenny Nordquist, artistic director of the Landskrona Foto Festival.

The curatorial meeting in Kaunas in the middle of the year was a key moment for Mucsi, which allowed her to think her project through. She was also able to visit Landskrona two times before the Festival to prepare this project; times that allowed her to fully understand the photography scene in northern Europe. Through this collaboration, her network has grown with the advice and relationship with Nordquist. For example, through Parallel Mucsi had the opportunity to publish two books with international partners; the first the catalogue of her exhibition and the second and invitation by the Fondazione Fotografia Modena to publish an essay on two artists.

To conclude her mentoring in Parallel, Mucsi is curator of an exhibition entitled “The Future is ours”, where she is exhibiting seven Parallel authors from September 14 to 23 at Landskrona Foto Festival: Antonina Gugała (PL),Ramona Güntert (DE), Pedro Sabino Koch (PT), Joshua Phillips (UK), Milán Rácmolnár (HU), Laura Rämö (FI) and Jacopo Tomassini (IT).

It is also a way for her to open up a perspective of collaboration in the future with these artists. and a challenge to bring these different perspectives together and to set up a project in less than a year. Her chosen artists have in common that they could be considered part of the so-called ‘Generation Next’, with traits of a common past and future. Antonina Gugała was a strong choice because, as the curator explains, she visualises “the universal impact of the Greek Depression, she highlights the connections between everyday objects found on the streets of Greece throughout 2017 and ancient artefacts from the collection of the National Museum in Warsaw, which are evocative of the foundations of European identity.”

 

Jenny Nordquist/ Landskrona Foto Festival / Institution

An essential link in the Parallel platform is the Institution: Here, Jenny Nordquist, a Swedish artist and curator based in Copenhagen, represents Landskrona Foto Festival as artistic director. Between two hangings, she took the time to explain to us why the festival participated in this project: “One of the aims for Landskrona Foto is to support young photographers and to give them opportunities and Parallel is a great platform for this. The combination of mentoring and giving exposure helps to give the photographers international exposure that can be difficult for a recent graduate. It also gives them a network of fellow artists and photographer from a variety of countries. For exchanging ideas and experience. Landskrona Foto Festival is all about meeting and networking, the festival is not just a space for exhibitions but also a space for meetings and dialogue about photography. Parallel is also important for Landskrona since it helps us to be part of the European community of photography, it puts us on the international map. Not just does it help us with exposure in a European context but it also broadens our network, with photographers, artist, curators and other institutions and festivals. We learn a lot form the other members.”

As for her collaboration with Mucsi, she too is enthusiastic: “We started our collaboration already at a parallel meeting last autumn. It’s been a process where we in the beginning discussed and followed the photographers’ work, and Emese worked on a concept for Landskrona- keeping it slightly open at the start since we in the beginning had no fixed space for the show. A festival is very different from an institution, we use various locations throughout the city and do not always know so long in advance what spaces we can use, that can be a curatorial challenge, but the space I had in mind from the start became available and then Emese could start to work more site specifically in the selection of work from the artist. I am really happy with how she has used the space” for the show.  

 

Next Steps

This year 2018/2019 will be another busy year with the second cycle of Parallel. The next meeting will be in Derby, during the Format festival in March 2019 where photographers and young curators will present their final projects to prepare the following exhibitions. First stage, May 2019, at the Water Tower / le Chateau d’eau in Toulouse, Jean-Marc Lacabe will welcome the emerging curator, Jon Uriarte, and then six others events before closing of the second cycle in a year’s time, at the end of September 2019 at the Capa Center in Budapest coinciding with the launch of the third cycle.

In summary, the output of this first edition of Parallel is positive, seeing high-quality exhibitions from more photographers and young curators collaborating with institutions. See you in a year in Hungary to follow evolution of this ambitious project.

 

For further viewing, save the date for these second cycle Parallel Projects: (more details via Parallel Platform website)

Le Château d’Eau

Directed by Jean-Marc Lacabe
Exhibition opening: May 22nd 2019
Working with new curator Jon Uriarte

The Finnish Museum of Photography 
Directed by Tiina Rauhala
Exhibition opening: May 28th of 2019
Curator Lexington Davies

Kaunas Gallery
Directed by Gintaras Česonis
Exhibition opening: June 26th 2019
Working with new curator Cale Garrido

PhotoIreland Foundation
Directed by Ángel Luis González 
Exhibition opening: July 4th 2019
Working with new curator Seda Yildiz 

YET
Directed by Elena Vaninetti
Launch date: first week of July 2019 (to be launched during Les Rencontres d’Arles)
Working with new curator Leanna Teoh

Galleri Image
Directed by Mette Bersang
Exhibition opening: August 10th 2019
Working with new curator Lovro Japundzic

ISSP
Directed by Evita Goze
Exhibition opening: August 15th 2019
Working with new curator Eric Lawton

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Jeanne Mercier is an art consultant, critic and curator based between Europe and Africa. She is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Afrique in visu platform, founded in 2006. During her studies in History of Art and Photography, in 2005 she realized a thesis on « Les Rencontres Africaines de la Photographie / Bamako Biennal » and continues to research new practices and forms of dissemination of photography in North and West Africa.  Today she divides her time between Afrique in visu and consulting activities for cultural programming in the field of contemporary photographic practices and the issues of professional photographers in Africa.

Afrique in visu platform

Jeanne Mercier’s website