Prepare for CONTACT!
Contrary to the claims of a certain Christmas carol, I contend that May is the most wonderful time of the year. Because May is when spring really begins - you know, when temperatures actually hit the "warm" mark. It's when everything comes back to life. It's when that odd smell emanating from Toronto ravines is actually rejuvenating. It's when sports fans have the
difficult choice of watching baseball, basketball or hockey (alas, just not the Leafs). Oh, there are so many reasons to celebrate May.
But, of all these, my chief reason for loving the month of May is the annual arrival of the CONTACT festival. That might sound overly dramatic, but for lovers of photography, there really is no better time.
Not only are there photographic exhibitions in most of the galleries across the city, but subway stations, cafes, and stores citywide participate by hosting hundreds of independent shows. Although many already know this, the fact that it's the biggest photography festival in the world is quite an accomplishment for our often artistically challenged city.
Earlier today I got a chance to attend the festival's opening press conference and a sneak peak of the primary exhibition, Still Revolution: Suspended in Time, which opens on May 1st at MOCCA. As has been the case in years past, the festival organizers and the curators at the gallery have done an admirable job of putting together a timely and relevant lead exhibition with a strong international component.
Playing on an oxymoron that has always defined photography, the curators explain, "Still Revolution: Suspended in Time looks back to the revolutionary foundations of photography to explore the current innovations that continue to transform the medium." This double movement of looking forward and back is a fitting gesture to both the temporal complexities of the photograph and a recognition of the fact that, for all the digital advancements of recent years, the photographic image has always been radical in some sense.
Consider what Louis Daguerre had to say about his creation in 1838: "The daguerreotype is not merely an instrument which serves to draw nature... [it] gives her the power to reproduce herself." From the get-go, the photograph was conceived of as more than just a mere copy of nature. And although the various ways in which photos exceed their conventionally determined limits as re-presentations are too numerous to list, Still Revolution provides some challenging contemporary examples for festival-goers' delectation. Ranging from the socio-political commentary of Mikhael Subotzky and Stan Douglas's contributions to the more theoretical interrogations of Idris Khan and Walead Beshty, as the feature exhibit, it showcases a wide breadth of photographic practice to support and highlight its themes.
Over the course of the next month, my colleagues and I will do our best to provide thorough coverage of the 2009 edition of CONTACT. Stay tuned for reviews of exhibitions, public installations and walking tours, more information about our 50 artists, 50 photos show at Barbershop Gallery, and reports on various other aspects of the festival.
The CONTACT festival runs from May 1st-31st, 2009.