Thessaloniki museum launches 2014 PhotoBiennale to wrap up thematic trilogy

By Harry van Versendaal

The PhotoBiennale, the country's largest photography event, is back with the third and final chapter of its “Time, Place, Logos” trilogy.

Organized by the Museum of Photography in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, the group exhibition gets under way on May 9 and will run through the end of the summer.

Following up from events in previous years, which were built around the concepts of time in 2008 and place between 2010 and 2011, this time curators grappled with an equally complex – albeit more elusive – concept: logos.

Dating back to the ancient Greeks, the word “logos” takes a wide range of related meanings, such as speech, discourse, reason, or an argument's logical structure. To probe its varied semantics, organizers brought together some 1,000 works by 100 Greek and foreign artists from 23 countries around the world.

“The PhotoBiennale is a celebration of photography, and it is a great opportunity to discover pieces of art, artists and spaces through a wide range of events,” Museum of Photography director Vangelis Ioakimidis told Kathimerini English Edition.

“It is actually a good reason to visit Thessaloniki,” he said.

The exhibits are on display at venues throughout the city, including the museum's brick-and-steel seafront headquarters, the now-defunct army warehouse (which will open its doors to the public for the first time following a deal with the Thessaloniki Port Authority), a number of archaeological sites, and the Museum of the Thessaloniki Ancient Agora.

Among the festival highlights are works by Spanish photographer Javier Vallhonrat, who originally made a name with his sensual fashion spreads for Vogue magazine but who has verged over the years into more conceptual territory without giving up on his trademark aesthetic.

France-based Carolle Benitah also worked in the fashion industry as a designer before switching to photography in 2001. In her “Photos-Souvenirs,” the photographer revisits her Moroccan childhood by manipulating her old family pictures using needlework. Embroidery and beads festoon her images in a symbolic act of remembrance and exorcism.

One of Portugal's most celebrated contemporary artists, Daniel Blaufuks, features at the festival with select pieces from his “Album” project – fragments of personal archives of unknown individuals: pictures, postcards, newspaper clippings, tickets, handwritten notes, typed pop lyrics and other items that raise quasi-existential questions about memory and identity: Is memory a sentiment or a document? A blessing or a curse?

In “Yesterday When I Was Little,” Bulgarian Vesselina Nikolaeva weds image and text to chronicle the early steps of her daughter, while Magnum photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti captures the passage from childhood to adulthood in her project “The Adventures of Guille and Belinda,” a series of pictures of her two young cousins, then 9 and 10 years old, against the backdrop of the Argentinean countryside.

The PhotoBiennale also features works by Greek artists.

Renowned photographer Nikos Markou breaks fresh ground with “Life Narratives,” a video project that combines portraits and short interviews, while New-York based Kostas Kiritsis undertakes a journey of self-discovery with his “Self-Portraits.”

The PhotoBiennale has come a long way and now ranks among the continent's major photographic events alongside the Moscow PhotoBiennale and PHotoEspana in Madrid. Some 75,000 people visited a total of 55 exhibitions in 2008 while an almost double number of shows drew more than 220,000 visitors in 2010-11.

Visitors will have the opportunity to attend a range of side events such as open discussions, masterclasses and workshops. Many of the works are set to go on display in other cities around Greece after the summer.

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[Kathimerini English Edition]