Lodz-Minsk-Odesa: Three Festivals Combined in One

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Lodz-Minsk-Odesa: Three Festivals Combined in One

We are excited to introduce you to the 21st edition of Lodz Fotofestiwal. The festival, which had its big opening on 9 June, starts into the last weekend, and invites you to delve into the topic “communities”. At the beginning of June, we dedicated Specials to Copenhagen Photo Festival and Odesa Photo Days, who joined hands this summer for a partnership: In Copenhagen, a 10,000 m2 wasteland turned into an innovative exhibition park filled with photography and lens-based art. Due to the most recent events in Europe, also Lodz Fotofestiwal decided to reprogram their plans and invite both Odesa Photo Days and the Month of Photography in Minsk to join. The program this year remarks how community can devolve into a form of resistance, resilience and breakthrough after devastating events. It emphasises the extended concept of community in the sense of coexistence of all forms of life: people, other animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms; and looks at the phenomenon of temporary communities built around the process of creating and experiencing images.

With such a special and emotional edition, the tri-festival’s focus is in line with the theme of Der Greif’s 15th print publication, an issue that will be dedicated entirely to “collectivity”. Get the chance to be published in issue 15, and become part of a truly collective work of art, guest-edited by 50 renowned artists. Submit your work here.

‘When we started our work on the Fotofestiwal program, the word “community” – chosen as the main theme of this edition – had a different emotional load than today. After Russia’s unjustified and criminal attack on Ukraine, after millions of Ukrainians have been forced to search for a temporary home, we all see values such as unity and solidarity differently. Today, when the slogan "European community" is repeated in the media in every other sentence, and hundreds of people come up together with grassroots initiatives to help those fleeing the war, we want to believe that it is the "community" that will allow us to survive this crisis,’ say Franek Ammer, Krzysztof Candrowicz and Marta Szymańska from the Fotofestiwal’s curatorial collective. The program has been updated to take into account the contemporary situation. Fotofestiwal - out of the need for solidarity and cooperation - has invited two other festivals to Łódź: the Month of Photography in Minsk and the Odesa Photo Days, which could not be held this year due to oppression in Belarus and war in Ukraine. Both will present a part of their program in Łódź. The eighth edition of the Odesa Photo Days Festival was scheduled to take place in Odesa on 19-22 May 2022. On February 24, 2022, Russia started a war against Ukraine. Now, Kateryna Radchenko, director and curator of Odesa Photo Days, and the festival team are working to spread the word about the situation in Ukraine and support Ukrainian documentary photographers and photography-based artists affected by war. At the same time, the core of the program did not change and remains built around the slogan which has become more important in such an unexpected way. The idea of “community” is a point of reference for curators, artists, activists, and institutions invited to create the program and exhibitions of this year's Fotofestiwal.

The works and experiences of strong women show us how the community can become a form of resistance and therapy after tragic events. In the new version of her multimedia project “Tatsunya”, Rahima Gambo proposes a poetic, tale-like story about schoolgirls from north-eastern Nigeria. In 2013, a terrorist attack by the Boko Haram group took place at their school. The girls tried to cope with the difficult experience, also through an educational program that included workshops with Rahima Gambo. On the other hand, the project “Mujeres de la Tierra / Women of the Land” by Mahé Elipe shows how the experience of domestic violence and economic oppression became the starting point for five women to create a completely new community. Fighting for emancipation, with great resilience, they began a new life on their own territory in the rural part of Mexico City, in a successful attempt to build a “sister community”. The audience is also invited to get to know the female perspective in Polish photography of the 1970s, 80s and 90s at the exhibition “The Only Ones. Untold Stories of Polish Female Photographers” at the Museum of the City of Łódź.

An extended concept of a community based on the relationships of people, other animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms is proposed by the artists participating in the group exhibition “COEXIST: Liberty_Equality_Biodiversity!”. Francesca Todde tells us about interspecies cooperation using the example of Tristan's activities. This bird educator develops a proprietary way of communicating with animals based on how their senses work and what their sensitivity reacts to – such as the intensity of the gaze or even the intention behind every of Tristan's moves. The projects by Daniel Szalai and Marta Bogdańska draw our attention to harnessing animal abilities for strictly human purposes: breeding of genetically engineered chickens for the production of vaccines, or participation of spy squirrels, photographer pigeons and nuclear lizards in armed conflicts and other military activities.

These are only some of the projects referring to the topic of community. The artists invited to the exhibition titled “The Joyful Death of Images” urge us to look at the phenomenon of temporary communities built around the process of creating and experiencing images. Another exhibition is devoted to projects created with and for migrants, and the artists participating in it (Archive of Public Protests, Karolina Gembara, Yulia Krivich, Marta Romakiv and Pamela Bożek) argue that artistic activities have a real power to influence the lives of individuals.

The Open Program presents photo projects selected from almost a thousand entries submitted for this year's competition by artists from 40 countries. In this part, we can see a very personal and at the same time universal project by French artist Mathias de Lattre about hallucinogenic mushrooms and their importance both in the traditions of many cultures of the world and in the treatment of the artist's mother's disease. Another difficult family experience – grandmother’s progressive dementia – became the starting point for Hungarian artist Balázs Turós. In his project, he asks questions about collective and individual memory, transience and possible ways of coming to terms with one's own mortality. There are also other topics to reflect upon, for instance two difficult stories of two countries. Santanu Dey's work brings us closer to the Marichjhapi island massacre in India. Turkish artist Cemre Yeşil Gönenli, in her award-winning project "Hayal & Hakikat: A Handbook of Forgiveness and A Handbook of Punishment", recalls archival photographs of prisoners' hands, on the basis of which Abdul Hamid II, the 34th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, is believed to have decided who was accused as guilty of the crime. Mateusz Kowalik, on the other hand, in his poetic series of black and white photographs, looks at the need to escape to nature.

Fotofestiwal – International Festival of Photography in Łódź 09-26.06.2022, Łódź, www.fotofestiwal.comOrganiser: Fundacja Edukacji Wizualnej (Foundation for Visual Education) Co-organisers: Łódzkie Centrum Wydarzeń (Łódź Event Center), Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Fabryka Sztuki (Art Factory) in Łódź Festival Centers: Art_Inkubator, OFF Piotrkowska The main partners of the festival: University of Łódź, Film School in Łódź, Strzemiński Academy of Art in Łódź, the Month of Photography in Minsk, the Odessa Photo Days