Monday, 5 May 2014

Shift in Focus

A potentially interesting photography exhibition opened in Cardiff this weekend - "Shift: Ukraine in Crisis" at the Third Floor Gallery in Butetown. As the title suggests, the subject is the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, where pro-Europeans and pro-Russians are becoming increasingly violent towards one another. With an election looming in Ukraine at the end of May 2014, the exhibition intends to change its display at the end of the month - hence the "Shift", or what the exhibition blurb calls a "dynamic curatorial event".

Certainly in the world of fine art gallery system there is rarely an opportunity to react quickly to events. Exhibitions are booked months or years in advance. Art is traditionally expected to address 'timeless' themes and art production often uses labourious time-consuming methods of creation. Last year I came across a Danish fine artist, Thierry Geoffroy, who had attempted to address the problem. His 'Emergency Room' exhibitions give regular opportunities (often daily) for the exhibitors to enter the gallery and amend or replace their works as outside events progress.

Photography at least has the advantage of having a variety of regularly published news platforms - papers, magazines - as an outlet for its reportage. Digital photographs can be emailed within seconds. The Third Floor exhibition errs away from journalism and heavily towards the 'arty' photograph, laiden with symbolism and, dare I say, a beautiful but static view of a bloody civil war. It is open to question whether such a controlled, sparce and traditional display fits with the aspiration of dynamism, change and response.

Of course, every exhibition of art and photography that encourages the audience to scrutinise images and consider their attitudes to major world events is a very good thing indeed. All credit goes to the photographers (and subjects) for their courage and creativity in a hostile environment. In my humble view the "Shift" idea has potential to be taken much further in the future than it is on this occasion.

Exhibition runs till 22 June, with a 'shift' scheduled for between 26 May and 1 June.

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