Brighton Photo Biennial 2018, Brighton

Yesterday was the perfect autumnal sunny Saturday for a daytrip down to the coast to catch the opening of the Brighton Photo Biennial 2018. This years’ theme is aptly Brexit, and all of the photographers and projects spread across multiple sites both indoors and outside explore themes around identity, the UK as an island, our relationship with Europe and current politics, and the refugee crisis. I began in Jubilee Square which is dominated by a shipping container showing a single portrait by Uta Kögelsberger – this portrait will change over the next month, but will consistently depict someone who feels alienated from their own country. Inside Jubilee Library a series of staged self-portraits by Heather Agyepong in varying colonial garb, printed on long paper sheets loosely draped over scaffolding are on display, moving as people walk past or the breeze takes hold of a corner. Winding through the laines to Fabrica, a former church and now contemporary arts hub, I viewed Harley Weir’s body of work taken immediately before and during the destruction of the refugee camp in Calais known as ‘The Jungle’. These large scale works have been printed on silks and suspended from the original church architecture, making for a powerful and elegant display as the sun coming through the windows shone through the silk images, and is arguably my favourite project in this years’ biennial. A little further on, I discovered a video installation by Hrair Sarkissian incorporating two projections shown side by side; one showing an architectural model of the photographers’ home in Syria slowly falling apart, and another of the artist himself knocking down a wall with a sledge hammer. I ended the afternoon at ONCA Gallery, hosting the winner of the Open18 Solo Exhibition, Sarah Howe’s interesting multi-media installation. Brighton Photo Fringe is also on simultaneously for the next month with various projects displayed along the seafront as well as in two regency period buildings, again examining the inescapable themes of the European Union and identity.

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