Trail: All the World's a Stage by Rodrigo Orrantia
We asked curator, Rodrigo Orrantia, to share a selection of Photo Fringe 2022 exhibitions that caught his eye. He spotted a thread running through many of the shows.
All the World's a Stage
I am interested in expanded practices of photography, especially what I'd call a sculptural approach to the medium. Thinking of this year's Photo Fringe theme of Real Utopias, I guess I'm interested in the way new worlds are constructed, put together, found, enacted, then lit (or not) and made into images.
My trail highlights practices working with staging in different ways, and working with the subject as an active element in the material (and visual) construction of a scene. I am drawn to these practices as I think they demand so many additional skills other than strictly photographic.
Let's begin: AION (Rhiannon Adam, Emily Graham, Laura Pannack and Jon Tonks) presents work from each of the artists' latest projects, working together to question the contrast between the ideas of utopia and dystopia. I am a big fan of these four artists and their work, long-term projects based on rigorous research, also (this is a must for me) work that is technically impeccable. I like to point out to the different types of staging in this show; Tonks’ group portraits framed in the architecture of pubs, Adam's carefully crafted visual alliterations, Pannack's otherworldly images based on folk stories, and Graham's intriguing combination of portraits and still-life images.
Following on from this idea of staging portraits and objects, I'd like to add these shows to my trail: Komorebi by Joy Bews-Pick and Ellie Pike (a new find for me this year); Flower Boys by Jennifer Pattison and Fragments of My Journey by Sofia Yala. It's great to be able to see these works in succession, and find connections across the different practices. The relationship between sitter and object, or the sitter as object (mmh, there's an idea to discuss) or both sitter and object as part of the construction of an image.
To end this first stage of the trail, Le Ciel de Saison by Congolese artist Baudouin Mouanda. Masterly set up, these Mise-en-scènes combine portraiture, objects and the presence of a looming flood; water becomes a quiet but menacing presence across the works.
There's a few shows where I found different, more experimental staging practices, great to add them as the conversation of this trail. Looking for Spiders, another excellent group show. Here I'd like to point out Kim Shaw's maquettes, they are amazing objects; miniature stages for photographic images. For this show she presents 'I Know You Wear Your Wings’ Contrasting Hans Hoffaman’s comment “Only men have the wings for art” with a recent quote from Nazanin Zaghari-Radcliffe “Stop a generation of women from running, and they give birth to girls with wings.”
A new discovery for me, Joan Alexander's Proof of Ghosts has many intriguing images and interesting constructions. Look at a work called Foreboding, a very effective use of staging and light. I will definitely keep an eye on Alexander and her work from now on.
Lastly a show by artist collective (re)structure. Here I'd like to point you in the direction of The Natural, Rural & Remote by Eva Louisa Jonas, one of my new favourite finds of the year. Her work with performance is a delicate but powerful take on staging, amplified by the use of stark black and white photography.
Rodrigo Orrantia is an independent curator, interested in expanded practices of photography working with sculpture, performance and localised installation. Orrantia believes that exhibitions and publications are devices for experimentation and debate, where curators can work with artists from the outset of the project in a collaborative way.
He is particularly interested in the connections between photography, geography and place, especially the topical relationship between nature and humans in the geologic time of the Anthropocene. Following this interest, in 2017 he was awarded Format Festival’s Habitat Award for an exhibition project entitled Modern Ornithologies. In 2020 he was the winner of the Landskrona Foto Festival Open Call, with an exhibition project entitled The State of Things, another experimental installation, this time inviting five artists to respond to the architecture and history of this Swedish town. Most recently in 2022 he was guest curator for the London Art Fair Photo 50 Section, with an exhibition entitled No Place is an Island, Echoing John Donne’s celebrated book No Man is an Island, the title of the exhibition also alludes to the idea that contemporary photography is not an island or an isolated medium, showcasing photography as part of a wider practice, pushing and redefining its boundaries through sculpture, performance, moving image and sound.