In the cycle of mutability where millions of images are daily produced, the Festival ENCONTROS DA IMAGEM returns to contaminate the city of Braga, and to exalt the fields of the sensitive, in a unique year full of revelations and significances. The current edition takes place at a very singular context: 2015 is the celebration year of the XXV edition of the festival, election year in Portugal, hand-in-hand with major political changes in Europe and in the World. At a time when the struggles for power tend to be increasingly lively, and at the same time that image acquires an unexpected strength, urges a refresh on the political awareness, and simultaneously, a need to bring up a new type of audience, proving the power that image has to captivate and deceive.
The selected subject for this edition proposes to analyse, through several angles, the narratives from the contemporary artists involved in a social environment of constant changing. In this edition, it is generated a field of dynamic and social creation in which artists, curators, critics and masters, explore the subject of “Power & Illusion”, on its multiple interpretations.
“Power & Illusion” is an edition that speaks about the strength of photography, structured as a practical and experiential research of the world today. How can we actually deal with Power in an artistic way, as an organic part of a social system? This question inspires the XXV edition of the Festival to enter an uncommon journey through times of a historic turning point. According to Martin Heidegger, German philosopher: “The fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture”. However, man can no longer find that supportive point in its own reality, but in its artificial representation, in the symbolic reproduction of the image. Reality and truth are no longer hegemonic terms and concepts, and perhaps, in a consequence of that, photography has revised its aspirations of objectivity and currently offers an illusion of the real, approaching the world through simulation, fiction, or staging, key question for this Festival edition.
In “Power & Illusion”, the invited artists from the official selection present contemporary artistic visions, which generate very strong strategies and visual poetics, bearing in mind the questioning of the multiple sides and borders of photography, they address subjects such as politics, beauty, violence, sexuality and fiction. Attention should be payed to the poetic sense of Roger Ballen’s “Asylum of the Birds”, which shelters an amoral universe, where good and evil coexist, breaking down the beauty ideals, uncovering a magic gallery of mirrors, revealing to the photographer/viewer the games and traps hidden by reality.
This edition reveals moments of social instability and the questioning of moral values, strictly related to the current events, in a double interpretation: the illusion inherent to human comprehension, and the love for the power which contaminates society, which can cause and motivate the energetic action – for good or for bad. In this regard, the artist Carlos Spottorno series “The PIGS”, (term coined by the financial press to refer to Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain during their current financial condition), illustrate the stereotypes and the derogatory labels that have been placing these countries in the sights of their most developed “brothers”, in a powerful moment of changing of the European paradigm.
On the other hand, Philip Toledano in “Maybe” develops socially relevant and personal views about the Future that have a powerful effect, by “undressing” the features of an increasingly narcissist Western world: Questions like power, success, youth, beauty, and consumption are emphasized.
The delusional games and the power of fiction arise in its fullness with the series “This is what hatred did” by the Spanish author Christina de Middel, in which she appeals to the confabulated game of fictional language to present an illustrated view of dreams, fears, and desires within a group of African people in Nigeria. For her part, Birgit Krause plays with our imagination and perception of reality, taking us on a planetary journey, full of powerful illusions.
We also present the controversial artist Ren Hang, whose work has been censored in China, therefore showing us a new wave of the Chinese subcultural youth, which unveils the different ways to search for happiness/freedom. His performative, daring, and unbridled way of capturing nudity reflects a symbolic universe, where beauty, creativity and innocence are central, even though they were associated to obscenity by the authorities.
Finally, a metaphor for the increasing impact of technology in our lives, the series “Strangers in the light” by Catherine Balet, in which she explores the intrinsic relation between the individual and technology by capturing the digital light/brightness, operated by mobile applications that have been deeply affecting our visual culture.
The project, which may get closer to reality, is Edgar Martins’ series, “The Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite” in which he represents the most extensive photographic survey ever produced about the Space, supported by the European Space Agency. Its hyper-real composition contrasts with the cloak of secrecy and mystery that covers up the activity related with the Space, releasing evidences on epistemology, metaphysics, and finally about the conception of humanity.
The alchemy of this edition is based in a kaleidoscope-program, which seeks a combining game between the multiple exhibitions and activities, in a universe full of tension, challenges and a movement of great freedom. In this edition dedicated to Illusion, photography enters the world of music, sculpture, and installation, producing new experiences in the interpretation of visual codes. In all editions we seek to build senses, experiment interdisciplinary provocation, in a way of contemplating and exploring the world today. By the use of hybridism, contamination and confrontation, photography reinvents itself through the interaction and intersection with other disciplines.
The silver anniversary edition foresees in its structure, individual and collective exhibitions, the Great Photography Award “EI AWARD”, a night for projections, conversation with the artists, and a Book Market of self-published editions. Over the course of a month and a half, we can follow up the work of artists from all over the world, scattered in a group of cultural institutions and also in places occupied and reinvented by the Festival. The Festival reinforces the concept of public art galleries and exhibitions on the street, in search to conquest new audiences, using projections and educational services targeted to school groups.
The FESTIVAL ENCONTROS DA IMAGEM carries on with a major investment in internationalization, which in this edition is extended to India by presenting a Projection of Portuguese Contemporary Photography portraying the current universe of the Portuguese photographers. It is also expected to provide opportunities in artistic creation and innovation, in cooperation with partner entities, either by the movement of authors, or by the internationalization of national artists.
In this incredible odyssey to give continuity to the one and only national festival, and one of the oldest in Europe, we would like to address our special thanks to the team and to all of the people that helped in building the program, partners and entities that still believe in the inexhaustible strength of Photography and of ENCONTROS DA IMAGEM. “Power & Illusion” is conceived to work as an observation platform to contemplate our world, such as a tool box to analyse the image and its delusional games.
After all, closing our eyes is ceasing to be part of history.