The Barbican’s latest photography exhibition comprises over 300 works from 20 artists, merging the last 50 years into the 21st century, spanning from the poetics of Dayanita Singh to the inimitable intimacy of Diane Arbus and Daido Moriyama. It addresses the art world’s continuing fascination with fringe groups that exist intercalated throughout society, satisfying not through voyeurism, but by imbuing a sensitivity in appreciation of lives lived by ‘others’; those different to oneself. A key area of interest of this exhibition is the contrast between the media and artist interpretation of the outsider. Here, it develops on from notions touched on in 2016 by Martin Parr’s Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, returning here better and bolder under the sole curatorial debut of Alona Pardo, continuing her effort to the reinvent the traditional photography exhibition.
Speaking of which, much effort has gone into creating a variety of spaces that all feel unique, refreshing and exciting – and where necessary – tempered for the subject matter at hand. In others, particularly in Jim Goldberg’s case, limits are disregarded where photography, script and textural sculptures collide, topping the exhibition off in a supernatural melancholic strike.
Bold strides are made by an empowering and inclusive variety of artists as they explore a plethora of concepts such as gender and sexuality, counter and subcultures and minority intersectionality. Through the authentic representation of decades of marginalised social discourse, emerges a conspiracy between both subject and artist to form a stronger and more understood identity unitarily. For the audience, our identity and inherently-owned privileges (or lack thereof) are proprietarily questioned; invoking empathy and a personal inquest through an arresting mixed-media reverie.
Thematic highlights include the use of selected music and sound to create enveloping filmic environments, complimenting the scenes at hand of the bustling American metropolises captured. Walter Pfeiffer intensifies the display with an injection of surreptitious and alluring colour images, a quasi-visual prologue for any of those also in admiration of Call me by Your Name. Fans of the Polaroid brand will also enjoy a large collection of mostly self portraits which capture acommunity of trans people in what is described as an early safe-space communal resort, Casa Susanna, built on gender-nonconformity and expression.
This exhibition affords artists the perfect balance of freedom and direction to tell their own stories. Collectively, they inspire the next generation of artists to continue to connect disparate communities through consensual aid in the act of photography to create powerful visual narratives. The stories told here, broadly impart a rare level cultural experience; essential to the understanding of the fringe groups that make up our society. This is a compelling reason alone to visit.