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FORMAT, the UK's largest photography festival will explore the theme of habitat
From the series ‘This is not real life’ © Dominika Gęsicka.


DERBY.- Rapidly accelerating changes in the biosphere caused by human impact on Earth has pushed us into a new geological epoch, often referred to as either ‘Anthropocene’ or ‘Capitalocene’. Ahead still lies our future brings together 10 international artists whose work encourages speculation on global imagined futures. This is the focal exhibition of FORMAT17, curated by Hester Keijser and Louise Clements, in response to the festival’s theme of HABITAT.

Collectively, the artists in the exhibition explore the interconnected nature of the human spirit and the habitat that it encounters or creates. Their work looks broadly at landscape, environment, urbanisation, climate change, digital worlds, ideas of home and displacement, conflict and regeneration and all the spaces that we live in, at a time when the speculative sci-fi literature of the past seeps into our everyday reality.

The artworks range from Ester Vonplon’s requiem for the melting glaciers in her native Switzerland, to Lida Adbul’s video installation, filmed in a lake near Kabul, in which she examines the double bind between individual and nation. ‘The Canary and the Hammer’, shown at FORMAT for the first time, is Lisa Barnard’s exploration of gold, its mythology, influence and impact on our world. In her video, Forest Law, Ursula Biemann documents a series of landmark legal cases that brought the Amazonian forest to court to plead for the rights of nature. Sohrab Hura captures life in the extreme summer heat in a small village of Central India, and Zhang Jungang tirelessly photographs the ever-changing view from his tiny balcony of the bridge over the Song Hua River in Northern China. In ‘Waiting Grounds’, Hannah Darabi presents photographs of a ‘new town’ under construction near Tehran alongside excerpts from J.G. Ballard’s sci-fi story of the same name. Other artists create alternative worlds - Wanuri Kahiu explores a dystopian future in her film Pumzi, and Sadie Wechsler’s images skirt between tangible and imagined states, offering distorted clues as to tectonic shifts of reality. Virtual Reality melded with an architectural installation in ISLAND IS ISLANDS, a collaboration between artist Kenta Cobayashi and fashion designer NORIKONAKAZATO featuring Psychic VR Lab, takes the viewer on a journey to the new islands formed by image flotsam drifting around the digital realm.

Photography is in no way better or worse equipped than any other medium by which we can share our concerns about the presence, or embody our visions of the future. That is why this year’s edition of the festival includes video, film, interactive installations, research diaries and even sculptural elements… the guiding principle in the selection of participants for this exhibition had been a demonstrated ability of the artist to be, above all, an author of speculative (but not spectacular) futures about life on earth and ways of living on it, together.’ --Curator Hester Keijser






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