Rethinking Stereotypes: Three Exhibitions at Foam in Amsterdam

Overlooking one of the canals that cross Keizersgracht, Foam Museum is located in a very evocative spot, in the centre of Amsterdam.

More than a museum, Foam is an international organisation that deals with photography in all its aspects. In addition to hosting exhibitions, it organises meetings and educational projects, its purpose  is essentially to make the art of photography accessible to as many people as possible, without distinctions of age or social condition. This is based on the idea of a social use of the photographic medium as a weapon of criticism, problematisation, denunciation. Foam Magazine, which is directly connected to the museum, is published three times a year on three different topics. It brings together the international photographic community, alongside famous artists and other ones lesser known.

I was very happy to attend three conceptually related photo exhibitions.

The first one, Structures of Identity, ended on 29th of August and showed a collection of pictures from the past century to the present showing how, in different historical periods and in different ways, photography has always questioned stereotypes and social changes, constantly reinterpreting them. For example, it is immediately noticeable how the role of the portrait has changed over time (from the severe austerity of the first family portraits of the twentieth century to the exuberant ”selfies” of today), or realising the historicity of concepts such as femininity and virility, sexuality and pornography, as well as raising awareness of social problems such as political struggles, psychiatric institutions or migration flows and all identification codes that are in the background

The second exhibition, which runs until the 9th of September, is called Les Invisibles and, as the title suggests, it portrays the tragedy of migrants who, forced to flee from war and poverty, face horrifying journeys. Unfortunately, these journeys often conclude with the death or detention of the people in question, in a scenario in which the economic motivations far exceed the humanitarian ones. The exhibition consists of photographs, videos and stories that Samuel Gratacap has collected during his travels through Africa and Europe, documenting the horror of the detention camps and the complete irrationality of this new slave trade.

Like the previous one, the third exhibition will run until the beginning of September. Perhaps the most conceptual of all, Room With a View by Thomas Albdorf explores the stereotypes of contemporary society by combining the classic use of photography with the experimentation of new digital techniques.

Federica Veccari   5th September 2018

Photo is Detention center for migrants of Zawiya in Libya, December 2014 by and © Samuel Gratacap