Thomson & Craighead, October, 2012, Two channel installation. © Thomson & Craighead

Brighton Photo Biennial unveils key themes

Simon Stephens, 18.07.2012
Protest and revolution among the topics at this year's festival
Homelessness, squatting, protest, revolution and war are among the topics being addressed by this year’s Brighton Photo Biennial, which was launched in London earlier this week.

The fifth edition of the biennial takes place from 6 October to 4 November and is titled Agents of Change: Photography and the Politics of Space. The event will look at how the medium can be used to understand and shape the world.

“The theme came out of the current issues that we are provoked and excited by and reflects our ethos as an agency that encourages debate and inspires new thinking about photography,” said Emma Morris, the director of Photoworks, the photography agency that is organising the event.

“Our ambition is to produce a tightly curated and focused biennial.”

Photoworks merged with the Brighton Photo Biennial earlier this year and will curate the event. The four previous biennials were curated by individuals such as the photographer Martin Parr in 2010 and writer, curator and photographer Julian Stallabrass in 2008.

This year’s curators are Ben Burbridge, who has worked with Photoworks in various capacities since 2003, and Celia Davies, the head of programme at Photoworks.

The biennial will use venues managed by organisations such as the Fabrica, Lighthouse and the University of Sussex. But it has not reached an agreement to work with the museum service in Brighton, which was involved in 2010.

“The biennial is a platform for the visual arts in a city with limited permanent galleries,” said Morris.

“Photography is the perfect medium to exploit this lack of visual arts infrastructure by taking the festival out to the people by using new, exciting and unusual spaces, and through participation projects and outdoor installations.”

Highlights of the programme include a long-term photography collaboration between artists and young people living on the street in Brazil; the UK premier of a film first shown at the 2011 Venice Biennale that features an interview with a former military drone operator; and a newly commissioned installation that explores how various protest groups use imagery.

The biennial is also working with photojournalists at The Argus to unearth images from the Brighton newspaper’s archive that cover marches protesting against nuclear arms, the Poll Tax, education cuts, nudists on the beach and much more.

There will also be a project looking at the history of house squatting in the city.

Artists represented at the Brighton Photo Biennial 2012 will include Edmund Clark, Omer Fast, Julian Germain, Jason Larkin, Trevor Paglen, Corinne Silva, and Thomson and Craighead.

The September issue of Museums Journal will include a feature on arts festivals and biennials.