The Photo Festival in Landskrona, Sweden
Landskrona – a town of 30,000 inhabitants situated at the south-eastern coast of Sweden – has a vision:
“To become the home of photography in Scandinavia with a history museum and research facilities in co-operation with Lund University (a 30 min train ride south of it); it will arrange unique exhibitions of contemporary photography as well as the largest photo festival in Sweden.”
One wonders whether Landskrona’s cultural pioneers have been inspired by Marrakech in Morocco that has about the same vision?
The Citadel in Landskrona – photos being on display around and inside it
The Landskrona Photo Festival 2016 ran from August 19 to 28 – and if you couldn’t go there, there is both a fine website and an app.
It’s a remarkable and very welcome initiative of a rather small town; it proves that size is not of importance. It’s the vision and the investment and the synergy among enthusiasts that drive it all – something my town Lund, 4 times bigger, has no sense of.
This Festival is neither Photo London nor Photo Basel in terms of sophistication or quality. It is not a fair where works are sold. It’s very different – it’s about passion and giving various buildings, parks and even a citadel a new life, a new function. It’s about Landskrona’s vision that may lead to comerce, of course, but is not driven by a commercial motive. But there is all reason to believe that Landskrona will soon be on the international art photography map for real.
And it’s pleasantly down-to-earth and filled with talents from rather many corners of the world. A day pass is US $ 12 and the exhibitions take place in the Museum, the Japan-inspired Art Hall, at majestic Citadel, in parks, squares and local gallery spaces – all within some 600-800 metres of walk.
Landskrona is definitely what you’d call charming. The environment in which the exhibitions take place is a great asset that the Festival people exploit to its limit.
I usually start out these blog articles by stating that I am not an art critic but an art recommender. It means that I choose to tell my readers what I like, convey positive energy, inspire other photographers/artists and art lovers and make them want to go and see what I’ve seen. And – of course – what I mention below is only a selection of the places, artists and impressions.
Konsthallen – the Town Art Hall – hosted two young female artists allegedly dialoguing with each other, Elina Brotherus and Dorothée Smith. The text on this link offers an explanation and background but I just did not quite feel that dialogue – except for the identity dimension. In my view, Smith is by far the most interesting of the two; Brotherus somehow too self-focused for my taste. Brilliant photography for sure, but just did not speak to me.
Smith’s so-called Spectographie seemed abstract, intriguing and more explorative of the bigger world out there than Brotherus’ images in which, with few exceptions, she herself is the central object/subject.
Two works by Smith
Two works by Brotherus
As you’ll see, the Konsthallen is a fine milieu for art works, letting the daylight and beautiful nature in.
That said, its café of course has coffee and cakes but also simple, delicious everyday lunch plates made on order in the kitchen at reasonable prices, kind service. And – would you believe it – the Festival has its own Festival Beer which is a delight on a summer day like the day I was there:
Landskrona Photo Festival Beer © Jan Oberg 2016
Now let’s walk the bridge over the moat and onwards to the Citadel.
On your way you’ll experience the Chinese born Zhang Kechun’s (1980) amazing images of the Yellow River. His motives, methods and what it documents is described here on the Festival homepage.
As you’ll see, although these large-format photos are printed on huge weatherproof plast-like canvas and are remarkably sharp, the do fold and bend a bit. Be that as it may, I’ve always thought that showing photos outdoor is an exciting option and the environment here certainly encourage it.
Meanwhile I let the Citadel’s round shape go spinning while facing it, sitting on the lawn.
I saw two really remarkable shows inside the Cital walls – Tomasz Kizny’s and Dominique Roynette’s “The Great Terror” about what happened in the Soviet Union 1937-38, very appropriately arranged in the 3-level old prison part of the Citadel.
Secondly – and completely different – Danish Amalie Smith’s (1985) “Eyes Touching, Fingers Feeling” with a poetic and very beautiful 3D floating reflection of computer images, touchscreen technology, sensibility, vision and fingers’ touch to create artistic expressions.
The Great Terror is, as you may imagine, many stories telling the same story. Unspeakable atrocities and tragedy. It’s based on meticulous research and conveyed in still images and videos – one in each cell of the building.
Yes, we must remember! Yes, it must never happen again! We’ve said the same about the Holocaust and Hiroshima, the underlying assumption presumably being that by seeing and being reminded, we shall avoid similarly babarian events today and in the future.
While walking through, my thoughts drifted till today’s Iraq, Syria and Libya, to drone warfare and the risk of confrontation – even nuclear confrontation – in Europe.
And yes, when will they ever learn?
I’ll let a couple of images speak, first a panoramic view of the round shape and the staircase in the middle of it:
Without a real trial, executed like hundreds of thousands others.
And this woman says:
And you wonder how many feel exactly the same today in the countries I mentioned above. And how long how many of them shall wait to – finally, finally – learn the truth and feel their soul at peace in spite of the loss. Perhaps this show links, more or less intended, to the exhibition War On War Room (see below)?
I did take time too to explore a bit this round tower-shaped prison. Oh if these stairs could speak…
And what if these walls with their own abstract paintings could speak?
It felt like a deep relief to walk over to the other end of the Citadel yard and let oneself be absorbed in Amalie Smith’s insightful and beautiful video projected on to the old old wall:
Just a short clip giving you an impression…
This exploration of the whole new way we interact with images through fingers touching was not only thought-provoking philosophically, it was also done with amazing beauty. Smith is not only an artist but also an award-winning author and you’ll see more of this highly talented young artist at her homepage here.
I move on to a nearby huge old hall where Isabelle Darrigrand’s amasing photography collection containing 128 photos by 30 artists is on display. Read about it here.
A few of my shots from this very diverse collection.
Portrait by Serge Picard
By Mari Bastashevski – Series “Disappearing in the Caucasus”
I was very attracted to Michael Ackerman’s small-size, blurred black-and-white photos of women. Dynamic, full of movement and atmosphere and yet somehow very simple.
Michael Ackerman photos from the collection
I understand why all exhibition photos must be protected by glass. But in most cases it does huge damage to the visual experience. What you see – particularly if the image is dark – is little but yourself, lamps, other works and people behind reflected in it. And it becomes very difficult to take pictures of the photos.
Here was a lovely exception – a scaled down to essentials of a young daydreaming woman by Olivia Gay:
Olivia Gay’s “Sabrina” 2008
And talking about reflections, here is an attempt to really exploit it. The woman in Mathieu Pernot’s image screams something but in this case to a seemingly sleeping watchwoman:
The “War on War Room” is a project coming out of the collaboration, since 2002 and the build-up to the war on Iraq, between the artists Cat Phillipps and Peter Kennard.
It takes place at many places, in galleries and shops, in close contacts with people – and it is also partly produced by people. More on their own creative website. And here on the Festival’s home page.
The works shown in Landskrona are both their own and those of local young people; judging from their names they come from many parts of the world and have sought refuge in Sweden.
Here a collage by Ali Haider, 16, and Abbas Muhammadi, 17.
One would believe that they are not only conveying very strong emotions about life in war zones but may also have had a therapeutically healing effect to create and to hang – knowing that someone else will sense the suffering they have endured.
The two artists’ prints on Financial Times stock market page indeed make you think who produce the real values and what value creation and profiteering is all about in our exploitative capitalist economy:
The War On War Room’s basic idea shows in a fine manner how art can remain art even though it aims at spreading a very clear political message.
The anti-war or anti-militarist works by Kennardphillipps are superbly “different” from ordinary peace or anti-militarist political art, its imagery much more sophisticated and yet comprehensible and thought-provoking.
The fact that it builds on participative methods and invites citizens of all ages become contributing artists only adds to its importance and quality as political art or artistic politics.
For me as a peace researcher this exhibition carried a broader message than The Great Terror exhibition in the Citadel. But both are needed, speaking to different aspects of our emotions and intellect. And this one is real, not virtual; it brings people together and uses scissors and glue. Could be done anywhere in developing countries too spinning off on-site art exhibitions and dialogues.
The – eternal – problem, of course is this: How do we transform the anti-violence and anti-war statement into constructive thinking about peace-making? And what does peace art look like beyond anti-war art?
Finally, don’t miss Anna Katharina Scheidegger’s “Wrapped Coldness” project, described here.
Its very fine outdoor images document an idea that is very touching, namely how the Swiss try to prevent the disappearance of their glaciers, including how they put white cloth à la Christo on top of the mountains to reduce the heat and melting.
Tenderness and compassion for nature and beauty!
The Landskrona Photo Festival 2016 carries a lot of interesting art and documentary photography in a very inviting townscape. The Festival is thoroughly innovative and holds a great promise.
As a visitor you will feel highly rewarded. Spend some hours there enriching yourself aesthetically and politically. And, remember, I’ve told you only about a selection of this very diverse festival. There is much more to see. This year and, for sure, the many to come!