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A journey through boundary-breaking photography at Unbound 2021

in collaboration with Unseen's Unbound
Background

When we first entered the Unseen exhibition, the setups were still in progress. It really felt like a post-pandemic world, with people joining forces and putting together a photo event with galleries from all around Europe. We fled to Amsterdam in September 2021 to attend the Unseen Photo Fair and produce a new series featuring its brand new initiative: Unbound.

Unbound explores the outer limits of the photographic universe. This section focuses on multidisciplinary photographic projects, often on monumental scale. “If you had organized this 20 years ago, it would have been too much for people, it would have been too many impulses at the same time.” — says Unseen’s director Roderick van der Lee.

The first edition of Unbound is curated by independent curator Marcel Feil, the former Artistic Director of photography museum Foam, who selected 14 projects relating to the central theme ‘Filling the Cracks’. As Marcel explains, “what is broken, what has cracks, must be made whole again. Hence the title ‘Filling the cracks’. At the same time the title refers to the importance of skin and surface in many of the exhibited projects.” For this series, we got the opportunity to meet five boundary-breaking photography artists — David de Beyter, Hanna Rédling, Joost Vandebrug, Thomas Albdorf and Popel Coumou.

POPEL COUMOU

Popel Coumou has been shaping her own reality. Just as a painter uses paint to translate reality onto his canvas, she searches for ways to express her vision on reality through photography.  Photography has undergone a major transition in recent years, with the question of what is still photography becoming more prominent. Popel's work is certainly part of this development, balancing on the border between photography and painting, but also between reality and fiction.

The artist plays in her work with the main elements of photography: light, paper and perception of reality. Popel Coumou creates empty spaces, graphic lines and compositions verging on the abstract. The idea for the project she presented at Unbound was to “make something between photography, flat surface and the three dimensional object”. The installation consists of a collage of different layers of styrofoam plates with photographic prints and a photographic print on the floor. Popel plays with the contrast between the material used, the space depicted and the natural skies.

Her collages, having previously only served as a basis for the photo, are now enlarged to monumental formats. Thanks to the addition of light, they balance between an object with relief and an almost breathing photo with an enormous sense of depth.

THOMAS ALBDORF

Interested in photography and sculpture, in particular, the intersection area between both practices, Thomas Albdorf works with their shifting perceptions, the contemporary status quo of the photographic image and the decontextualization caused by internet distribution.

I’m interested in creating images that walk a thin line between tricking the future but also having enough information to give them the possibility to figure out what’s going on.

Thomas Albdorf

Five Days, the work presented at Unbound, shows simple sculptural arrangements created and photographed in a studio combined with images of streets in New York City taken over the course of five days; none of the sculptures were actually ever on location. The images were created with social media in mind - to walk the thin line between trolling the potential viewer and engaging them in a respectful, yet playful way to question the nature of images perceived online.

JOOST VANDEBRUG

Vandebrug also has work in the field of cinema. His Documentary film Bruce Lee and the Outlaw, for which he filmed a community living under the streets of Bucharest for 6 years won over a dozen international awards, received 5 stars in The Guardian and was screened in over 50 film festivals around the world.

Since 2014 Joost has walked along the Danube river. From its mouth at the Black Sea, Joost followed the river up via Moldova and Ukraine and up along the edge of Bulgaria and into Serbia. Inspired by Heraclitus word’s “You can never step into the same river twice.”, the video installation Joost presents at Unbound concentrates on the pragmatic part of the journey through the Danube river.

Joost Vandebrug works across photography, mixed-media and film. His photo-based works include both conventional and unconventional printing techniques such as pigment transfers and silver-gelatin prints, both on the hand-made and hand-coated Washi as well as copper plates and traditional Barite paper.

DAVID DE BEYTER

David De Beyter is a photographer. His approach to photography is both conceptual and documentary. He explores the boundaries between reality and fiction and De Beyter’s work gathers together different registers – the present, past and future. His artistic work is mainly based on the concept of Landscape practice and through the exhibition's installations he questions the different status of the image.

What interests me the most is the conceptual dimension and reflection around an image.

— David de Beyter

STUDY OF A MAGICAL PLACE I is a film shot in 16mm on the heights of Teide on the Spanish island of Tenerife. This film is a landscape study. The “Las Canadas” site, which is defined in amateur scientific ufology jargon as a “Magical Place”, is the central subject. The display is conceived as an immersive visual experience on the obsolescence of a belief, on the end of a modern myth.

HANNA RÉDLING

Hanna Rédling is a Hungarian photographer and visual artist based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The work Hanna presented at Unbound reflects on the anxiety she feels by the increasing virtual world.

Moon Motel reveals a total lunar eclipse that Rédling filmed years earlier as a memory, and which slowly became her personal memento. A real physical space of a motel’s dining room was transformed into a fragmented, melting scene by photogrammetry. Its arch is creating a

threshold, a transitional phase between reality and nostalgia in which everything is still in motion in search of a resting point, reflecting on the confusion and tension around and within us.

The phenomenon of the red moon represents for the artist the surfacing of various deep subconscious contents, a moment of realisation and understanding, the possibility of letting go of things that no longer serve us, and the red moon signaling a new beginning.

This article was written by Nicole Gonçalves featuring Filling the Cracks edited by Bauti Godoy, produced by José Guilherme Marques and Nicole Gonçalves,

filmed by Bauti Godoy and Nicole Gonçalves and with graphics by João Parra. Filling the Cracks was produced  in collaboration with Unseen's new section Unbound.

Article photos by José Guilherme Marques. Proofreading and translation of the video and this article by Eva Magro. Special thanks to Roderick van der Lee.

Published on January 2022.

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