Hoda Afshar, Owen Leong, Simon Harsent, Ray Cook. “Fables of Change” curated by Alasdair Foster, 09.09 — 07.10

Owen Leong. Raina, 2010

Owen Leong. Raina, 2010

The world in which we live today is a world of changes. Everything changes, and a barrage of effects links these changes together. Cultural diaspora contributes to an increase in intercontinental traffic, which in its turn causes an increase in atmospheric temperature due to emissions and melting of glaciers. Global migration enriches our people, but it also causes intolerance to anything new or different. The concept of multiculturalism is closely linked with the concept of ethnic stereotypes. Whenever respect and sympathy start to flourish intolerance erupts as if by magic, diverting our attention from what is truly important and sustaining the illusion of unlimited power in us.

Changes are the echoes of the extremes: hope and fear, tolerance and persecution, they and us, love and hate, warmth and cold… But there is something that unites all the changes. That is that they all are created by humans. We are initiators of changes of any kind, good or bad and even the worst. We are restless creatures, always seeking for something, heading somewhere, not knowing exactly where and what the end of our undertaking will be.

Change is a powerful force that is difficult to grasp with the mind; change is omnipresent and yet strangely elusive. Often some things are easier to understand by reading or hearing about them than by personally experiencing them in their entirety. Each of the four Australian artists participating in this exhibition explores an aspect of our world in constant motion, its tangle of action and reaction, being and non-being. Their images contain statements about the changes in different spheres – personal, social, cultural, environmental. In each case, they approach the question indirectly, in the poetic language of allegory speaking about adaptation, blending, metamorphosis, and dissolution.

Hoda Afshar

Hoda Afshar is a photographer of Persian origin. Her series “In-Between Spaces” tells about the difficulties of immigrants who are forced to ‘fit in’ to the Australian society. In the photos, which send us back to the ancient Persian painting with the gardens of Paradise which symbolize the universe, people appear in traditional Persian costumes with the typical attributes of everyday life of ordinary Australians (chocolate Vegemite, barbecue, surfing, Rugby, rotary clothes driers by Hill’s Hoist company that is popular in Australia, etc.) and beer…

In her work Hoda Afshar contrasts the two models of life: mundane Australians (rough and vulgar) and refined Persians (elegant and spirited). Both of them are defective, and neither of them is able to describe the complexity of personality, not to mention the society. The comic style of these images hides not only the ethical problems that turn immigrants into an abstract parody of a national character, but also the tendency of immigrants to idealize their homeland from afar.

Owen Leong

In his series “Birthmark”, Owen explores the attitude towards Asians in Australia, the ‘climate’ of how the local population take them. The author uses the image of the Bogong moth as a metaphor which migrates south to Australia in large swarms. People with Asian appearance, who are called simply ‘Asians’ in Australia and are not differentiated in terms of what country of East Asia they came, in Leong’s photographs are presented in masks that are drawings of the month wings on their faces. This series of portraits openly criticizes the perception of immigration as intrusion, and allows to feel the individuality of each person with their personal histories. The wounds of some images stand for psychological trauma. Thus, the prejudices and the reality of human differences are shown as a subtle contradiction.

Simon Harsent

Simon Harsent’s series “Melt” is anthropomorphic ‘portraits’ of icebergs in the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland, where they are presented as individuals and not just as a beautiful natural phenomenon. The main idea of the series is that because of global warming, more icebergs break away from glaciers in the Arctic and melt faster. But the history of icebergs for a photographer is not only an evidence of environmental problems, but also reflections about his own evanescence. The path that we choose determines our future, the decisions we make can change the course of life. It is some kind of a biographical ‘butterfly effect’.
The author traces the path of huge majestic icebergs from the Disko Bay off the Western coast of Greenland and to the East coast of Newfoundland. At the end of their journey, they, crippled by bad weather, will completely dissolve in the ocean, whence once they came from. The natural course of things is also a warning. We are not able to destroy the planet, but can make it unfit for human life.

Ray Cook

Ray Сook has always been interested in exploring the variability of the fates of minority that are in conflict with the usual norms of the majority in his works. This is a story of an eternal stream where freedom and persecution, lust for life and diseases, a suddenly extended life and the unexpected decline of life merge. This battle is won just to be lost again. This is a story of resistance and survival through adaptation. If you are mocked at – become a jester; if you are driven away from the light – live in the shade with shine; turn kitsch into beauty and secrecy – into the bonds of brotherhood.
A doll’s house symbolizes the boundary between what is outside and what is inside, between the personal and the public. Inside the house there is a magical universe of paper stars and fluttering curtains; courage on the verge of black humor. This is a game where prejudices turn upside-down and gently overflow into a silent emblem of faith in them. This is a survival game. To protect what lies under the carapace of deliberate cynicism. “Money first and no kissing”.

Alasdair Foster (curator)

Alasdair Foster is a consultant specialising in international cultural projects and a researcher in the theory of arts policy formation. He has 20 years’ experience heading national arts institutions in Europe and Australia and over 35 years of working in the not-for-profit sector (both as a board member and as an employee). Alasdair Foster was the founding director of Fotofeis, the award-winning international biennale of photo-based art in Scotland (1991–1997) and, more recently, director of the Australian Centre for Photography (1998–2011).

Alasdair is Ambassador for the Asia-Pacific PhotoForum, a founding member of the International Network of Photography Centres and co-founded the Association of International Photo-festival Directors (now the Festival of Light). He has served on the editorial panel of Black Flash magazine (Canada) and was an international advisor to Fotofo (the international photography festival in Bratislava). In 2011 he was Academic Consultant to the Pingyao International Photography Festival (the first non-Chinese advisor to China’s largest and longest running photo event).

Foster has organised several hundred exhibitions including major presentations in The National Gallery of Thailand, Bangkok; Chobi Mela festival (Bangladesh); Brighton Festival (England’s largest arts festival), Samstag Museum, Adelaide (Australia); Photographers’ Gallery, London (England); Fotofestival Naarden (Netherlands); Photoquai, Paris (France); Pingyao International Photography Festival (China); Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka (Bangladesh); Museum of Photography, Seoul (Republic of Korea); Aberdeen Art Gallery (Scotland); Singapore Art Museum and The Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei (Taiwan).

Alasdair Foster has contributed to a number of books, he has written for newspapers, magazines, journals and catalogues in many parts of the world.

The exhibition is organized by PhotoVisa International Festival of Photography and Cultural Development Consulting, Sydney.

09.09 — 07.10
“CECH” Art Space, Hangar
Kastryčnickaja Str, 16
12:00 – 22:00, daily
Single ticket for all the exhibitions at “CECH” Art Space ― 5 BYN. School children, students and retirees ― 2,5 BYN. Free entrance for journalists, children under 10 years old.

“CECH” Art Space, Hangar, 19:00

Exhibition guide “Fables of Change” with Irina Chmyryova

“CECH” Art Space, Hangar, 15:00
Entrance at the exhibition ticket