To the Finland Station

Article excerpt

BACKLIGHT 05

TAMPERE, FINLAND

SEPTEMBER 2, 2005-JANUARY 15, 2006

At a time when cultural globalization seems to smother indigenous cultural ideas, a photography festival such as Backlight, held every three years since 1987 in Tampere, Finland, represents a challenge. By combining Finnish and international photography, the curators of Backlight (both Finnish and international), highlight national differences while simultaneously placing all the images on the same plane of photography. In this edition, the work of sixteen Finnish and sixty international photographers is gathered into two shows revolving around the universal theme of childhood.

The problem with Backlight 05 is in the ambiguity of the themes chosen by its project manager, Ulrich Haas-Pursiainen: "Untouchable Things" at the Museum Center Vapriikki and "Spells of Childhood" at the Tampere Art Museum. The other two shows, a Gerhard Richter show (at the Sara Hilden Art Museum) and "Frontal 7," an exhibition of work by students of Thomas Ruff from the Dusseldorf Art Academy (enhanced by some pictures of those Dusseldorfers, par excellence, Bernd and Hilla Becher) at the photographic center Nykyaika, have little coherence with the main event. The two main shows both feature a variety of individual exhibitions based around the theme of childhood. This delineation appears arbitrary. A sense of dreamy romanticism hangs over the "Untouchable Things" which includes work by Maider Fortune, Stratos Kalafatis, Anni Leppala (who won the Backlight 05 Award), Vesselina Nikolaeva, Giuseppe Toscano, Margherita Verdi, and Cristina Zamagni. To be sure, the concept is vague: spells are untouchable. However, their emphasis on childhood might have found them better placed in the museum rather than in the Vapriikki, a former textile mill. Several hard-hitting exhibitions that touch squarely on the notion of the untouchable, include Peter Granser's "Alzheimer" series (2001-04) and Harri Palviranta's imagery from old prison cells around the world, "Prison Sheets" (2005). …