When we have each other, we have everything: Fotopub Festival 2017

Novo mesto, a small Slovenian town with a population of under 24,000, seems an unlikely location for a photography festival. But unlike other festivals, Fotopub’s focus is not on buyers, or even really, audience. Its focus is instead on artists, and creating a nurturing space for them to show, experiment, collaborate and ‘network’ in the most genuine sense of the word.

The 6 day festival deals with photography in its expanded forms, and this year consisted of 10 shows, 46 artists from 19 different countries, portfolio reviews, artist talks, an enlivened music programme and a surprising amount of Schnapps. Ruby Wroe, Fergus Heron and Duncan Wooldridge look back on their highlights from Fotopub 2017.

Lea Collet and Marios Stamatis: When we have each other, we have everything

Janez Klenovšek, Documentation of Lea Collet and Marios Stamatis, When we have each other, we have everything, Fotopub Archive, 2017.

Love Island, Calvin Harris, Dating Apps and love in the post digital age. Love as commodity, as something we buy and absorb, as something we navigate continuously and watch others enact on a daily basis. The performativity of love both as product and as genuine human expression as it is presented to and subsequently enacted by us, is teased out by Lea Collet and Marios Stamatis in When we have each other, we have everything.

Shown as part of Hanky Panky, curated by Tereza Jindrova, Collet and Stamatis use performance, image, prop, set and music, to present a fictional space in which these varying expressions of love are re-presented and sewn together. Four performers monotonously and in causal unison repeat the lyrics of How Deep Is Your Love, as they fondle props, stare wistfully into space and sometimes, at us. Every so often the performers join in physical sweaty unison; link shoulders and balance, move and wrestle, as one deeply breathing body. The viewer is watching, navigating, and judging a mesh of forced, fluid, ingenuine and genuine love. Bodies make noise, balancing and supporting one another, bodies come together and bodies leave each other, all in the name of love.

This work stood out to me predominantly for its non hierarchical mesh of research and influences. As is made in clear in Laboria Cubonik’s Xenofeminist Manifesto, the physical and the virtual are not separate entities yet feed into and off of each other. In this performance Love Island, Dating apps and Judith Butler’s theories on the performativity of everyday life, are of equal significance, and very much entwined.

 Ruby Wroe

Giorgia Castiglioni: Deus Ex Machina (Fortuna)

Giorgia Castiglioni, Deus Ex Machina (Fortuna) (film still), 2017

This projected moving image work with musical score was shown as part of the final opening group exhibition of the festival at Glavni Trg 2. Consistent with the experimental and expanded approach to photography characteristic of Fotopub, Castiglioni’s work engaged on many levels. An anonymous male figure runs along, across and through a maze of residential streets; followed, observed and tracked by the camera. If, according to Peter Wollen in the essay Fire and Ice, a basic filmic story can consist of images depicting processes, events and states, Deus Ex Machina (Fortuna) can be seen to permanently defer the latter two and forms a compelling exploration of the often unstable relationship between the moving image and narrative sequence. Furthermore, it is a work that demonstrates a subtle and sophisticated awareness of conventions of cinema and television drama, distilled as a study of the movement of the body in space within urban topography. True to its title, the work achieves a rare balance of humorous and pensive qualities, situating the viewer in extended anticipation.

Fergus Heron

Daniele Genadry: The Slip (Missing Real)


Klemen Ilovar, Documentation of Daniele Genadry, The Slip (Missing Real), Fotopub Archive, 2017

Included in the group exhibition Kindling at Novo mesto Library, curated by Rachel Dedman, this work has its origin in a series of snapshots of a view of a mountain range in Lebanon. The view is well known to Genadry and photographed repeatedly. The resulting images express complex ideas of time – geological and historical – and place, geographic and political. The images are printed at large scale on multiple translucent papers that are layered, creating opacities where parts (dis) appear. To me, the work invites reflection upon the appearance of land and its photographic process of becoming landscape and proposes that this process is always a material as well as a conceptual one. Installed high on the wall, draped to the floor, the resulting spatial qualities of the work are symbolic; viewed from ground level at close proximity, the image rotated ninety degrees refuses traditional western landscape conventions. From an adjoining balcony the landscape could be seen from above at a relative distance in ‘correct’ orientation. The work therefore complicates and comments upon the processes of making and viewing a landscape, acknowledging cultural difference, enabling reflection upon related ideas of place, meaning and significance.

 Fergus Heron


GHAITH&JAD: Print Imprint Press Impress


Klemen Ilovar, Documentation of GHAITH&JAD, Print Imprint Press Impress, Fotopub Archive, 2017


Klemen Ilovar, Documentation of GHAITH&JAD, Print Imprint Press Impress, Fotopub Archive, 2017

For me, a standout work from the festival was made by the Beirut-based architects Ghaith Abi Ghanem & Jad Melki (GHAITH&JAD), in the exhibition Kindling. Curator Rachel Dedman invited a range of contributors to respond to photography as a process from outside their usual disciplines. Ghaith & Jad’s poetic methodology, which is driven by a play with materials, saw them cast a modest-sized cube in plaster, recalling the camera (or chamber) as an object which traverses architecture and photography.  With this apparatus, they developed encounters between the camera and a variety of materials, some of which passed through the apertures of the object, others which formed solids within, and others still which reacted to the change in conditions that the camera brought about (differential properties, such as temperatures, forces such as weight, textures and chemical interactions). As index, trace, residue, and imprint, the results playfully echoed the more conservative ontologies of the photographic image, whilst producing imagery and objects which brought about a heightened sensitivity to matter and sense of encounter. This project demonstrated all that is good in thinking openly around photography and getting towards its edges.

Anja Jelovšek: Weed


Klemen Ilovar, Documentation of Anja Jelovšek, Weed, Fotopub Archive, 2017

Dejan Habicht, Documentation of Anja Jelovšek at Gallery P74, 2017 

Anja Jelovšek also summed up the enlightened approach of the festival, it’s openness and willingness to experiment. As an artist who has studied painting and sculpture, but who works repeatedly with mechanical/automatist forms of drawing, she crosses boundaries in playful ways, and brings an interesting approach to photography and technical image making.  In her exhibition, Jelovšek presented new research in progress, looking at weeds and their appearance as objects out of place. She planted them to grow under the floorboards of the exhibition space, and displayed photographs of found specimens in their proud defiance of the surrounding stone and concrete. Such an out-of-place condition is an apt allegory for the photograph itself, which is constantly on the move and appearing in congruous and incongruous places. Especially engaging was her treatment of the exhibition as a ‘test bed’, something that Fotopub uniquely seems to facilitate with risk taking. Anja’s wider practice, making drawings from toy machines, from her own data, and from the repetitive mark making of her own hand, brings machinic agency and the poetics of the technical object back into view: something that can’t be achieved by treating the photograph as a neutral tool or container, but only by working with and against it. 

 —Duncan Wooldridge

Further information about Fotopub can be found here.

Contributor biographies:

Ruby Wroe is an artist and Communications Coordinator at The Photographers’ Gallery.

Fergus Heron is an artist, photographer and Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University of Brighton.

Duncan Wooldridge is an artist, writer and occasional curator. He writes for Artforum, Art Monthly, and 1000 Words photography magazine, and is the Course Director for BA Photography at Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London.

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