Dedicated to the latest groundbreaking developments of avant-garde contemporary photography, the Amsterdam Unseen photo fair once again upholds its excellent reputation in the 11th annual edition of the event.
On 21st of September, the iconic Westergas site in Amsterdam became an engaging and lively scene, attracting several international artists and photography enthusiasts. In total, 78 exhibitors, 65 publishers of the book market and 9 special projects from around the globe present this year’s theme of nature and humankind’s relationship with the environment.
Entering the main hall, viewers are immersed in the divergent photographic mediums of the first exhibition, Unbound. With the idea of challenging and pushing the boundaries of conventional photography, Unseen successfully shows us that the universe of photography goes further than explicitly presenting an image on a two-dimensional flat surface. With the inclusion of photography on metal, ceramics and mirrors additionally combined with complimentary sculptures, music and animation, viewers are invited to witness a multi-layered and conceptual narrative.
In this year’s Unbound exhibition, the theme of Suspended matter is at the forefront. In lieu of Unseen’s main, overarching theme, ‘Nature’, Unbound focuses more on the idea of powerlessness in the face of climate change. In the daunting installation of Morvarid K, presented by French gallery Bigainon, an ominous burnt sculpture anchored to the ground uses the actual remains of the 2019-2020 wildfires that swept Australia. Next to it, a photographic sculpture (Cityscapes) with images printed on fabric and built around displaced construction materials questions the organic versus inorganic. At the back, a still motion picture on a large screen depicts Jaehun Park’s Overheated Windmill engulfed in smoke. While the windmill is regarded as a symbol of prosperity and economic developments in the Netherlands, Park further takes a historical approach in relation to Nature; although it is a structure that has facilitated developments in the country, it is also a machine that has been reliant on utilizing the fruits of nature.
Several other art forms also make a creative overlap between the historical and the modern. Kim Boske, for example, in the main fair of Unseen, intriguingly reanimates a series of 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings. Using fifteen overlapping images of painted flowers, Boske alters our visual perception of a peaceful unmoving still-life to a more dynamic one when animated. Thomas Albdorf’s additional looped video work of flowers reconstructed by artificial intelligence further provokes a discussion on the visual representation while indirectly questioning whether what we see is real or artificial in today’s highly technological world.
What makes Unseen even more unique is the inclusion of works by new rising initiatives together with established professional artists, thus allowing for Unseen to function as a catalyst in revolutionizing the avant-garde of contemporary photography.
Mathieu Asselin’s ingenious photographic print, True color, in particular, amazed us and earned first prize of the Meijburg Art Commission (part of the Unseen exhibition aiming to foster newly talented artists). Based on the Volkswagen emission “dieselgate” scandal in 2014, Asselin produced a photograph print using carbon-negative ink extracted from the exhaust pipes of the company’s vehicles. The photographic print shows a serene landscape specifically selected from Volkswagen advertisement brochures which highlights issues of green-washing and the authority of powerful companies. In the future, Asslein, “hopes to produce an entire exhibition [based on this series] using all 257 of the colors” seen in graphs to indicate the rise in temperatures from 1880 to 2022.
Overall, Unseen has not only successfully expressed the diverging ideas of contemporary photography but has also produced a lurid picturesque exhibition into the future of our planet. Long term exhibitors such as Kana Kawanishi from Tokyo as well as new exhibitors such as Carmen Araujo Arte from Caracas, Venezuela are present and showcase astounding work.
Having attracted more than 25,000 visitors from last year’s successful fair, Unseen is a must-see for anyone eager to witness an evolution in contemporary photography or otherwise comprehend a conceptual narrative on the imposing prospects of humanity and the environment. Anja Herrmann 22nd September 2023
The Unseen photography fair runs until 24th of September.
“About Westergas: Westergas is an art and culture village where historical value and innovative ideas come together. A unique monumental location in the Westerpark for visitors, with a quirky, but at the same time typically Amsterdam character.”