Category Archives: Brighton

Giant Lego Man Hits London

A giant lego man recently found on Brighton beach has migrated to London to form the more intriguing part of a light-weight street art exhibition in East London.

Washed up Lego on Brighton beach

Washed up Lego on Brighton beach

This afternoon – a miserable, rainy affair – I was wandering down Dray Walk, home to the Old Truman Brewery, when I was suddenly and mysteriously drawn in by an image of a grossly oversized Lego figure. Stranger things have appeared on the streets of East London, but I was intrigued by the slogan on his chest: No Real Than You Are (“What?? That doesn’t even really make sense!” I muttered to myself).

I had unwittingly stumbled upon Outside In, an exhibition that follows the trend of bringing big names in street, such as Mighty Monkey, into the safe confines of the metropolitan gallery space. It’s the first show of curators Prescription Art. I’m always sceptical about the commercialisation of street artists, and when I stepped inside, my fears it might be a shameless money-spinner were confirmed. Prices were as grossly oversized as the strangely intimidating Lego man. We’re talking £300 – £3000 for the more mundane works of artists who, whilst fairly well-established, don’t really make my heart beat any faster. The best work was probably Bortusk Leer’s weird child drawings. Observe:

Bortusk Leer's work on the street

Bortusk Leer

Having said this, the 6ft-tall Lego man has boundless novelty value. He’s actually the product of Dutch artist Ego Leonard’s fertile imagination, and has undoubtedly proved a potent publicity stunt. The vibrant fella has not only been discovered ‘washed up’ on Brighton beach, but was also found on a shore in Holland last year. That’s a pretty unlucky history of shipwrecks. Here’s hoping his spell indoors at the Old Truman Brewery will give him some time to recuperate, and think about his next move a bit more carefully.

Learn more about the show and artists at www.prescriptionart.com

Foxy Paw

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War of Images / Images of War

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are glowing crimson, the air is crisp, and out have come the chunky knits and felt coats (and, to my horror, Ugg boots, again!). Autumn has made a welcome return, and this year she brings with her the 2008 Brighton Photo Biennial.

 

That's right!

That's right!

The BPB is a high-profile event in the international photographic calendar. Showcasing images by profession and amateur photographers alike, the BPB comprises ten exhibitions held at various venues in Brighton and around the South-East coast (of England, not Guernsey, dear reader). The purpose of the festival is not only to celebrate international photographic practice, but also to provoke topical debate.

This year’s Biennial, guest curated by writer and critic, Julian Stallabrass, lives up to this aim. For the past few years, we have been bombarded by images of Iraq and Afghanistan; so much so that, in this age of spin, we have come to question the integrity of the photographic image. How much of war photography is about depicting a reality, and how much of it is heavily biased by political allegiances? Such questions are raised by 2008’s Biennial, which offers the public a look at a range of images taken and circulated during times of conflict.

 

Philip Jones Griffith's 'Vietnam' (1967)

The BPB’s focal exhibition, Iraq through the Lens of Vietnam, explores the idea that images of Iraq have conjured into public consciousness grisly memories of Vietnam. The layout of the exhibition leads the visitor to look first at Vietnam and then at Iraq. It urges the viewer to consider how the photographic documentation of how Vietnam has informed the images we now see online and in the mainstream press. One of the legacies of Vietnam is the ideologically-charged photo, and what is made its strong influence on the photographic representation of Iraq.

This is highlighted by the contrast between presentations of (apparently) heroic US soldiers in soft-focus, and horrifying snapshots of dismembered Iraqi civilians. The ‘image war’ spoken of by Donald Rumsfeld is starkly illuminated. It is made even more apparent by the depiction of children in each; on the one hand, kids are shown playing football with Western soldiers, and on the other, they are shown as the victims of cruel and indiscriminate warfare. The news editors on both sides certainly know how to attract the sympathetic public gaze.

 

Abu Ghraib detainee, from camera of Cpl. Charles A Graner
Abu Ghraib detainee, from camera of Cpl. Charles A Graner

It is this focus on how the images are used, as well as the obvious issue of what they depict, that makes the theme of this year’s Biennial particularly powerful. Rather than acting simply as a crusade against war, it probes deeper to show us how images are used by all sides to shape public opinion. Essentially underpinning this is a reflection on our own global culture, a culture saturated by image and the news equivalent of fast-food. We are forced to question our faith in the media – an act of independence which is, surely, a good thing.

Despite delving into the deeper implications of today’s images of conflict, there is one thing about the Biennial that really sticks: the undeniable horror and inhumanity of war. Photographers on the opposition may have been photographing with an agenda in mind, but their visual documentations of the ravages of war do not lie.

As the economic Winter draws in, such images are being replaced by falling graphs of the Dower Jones Index. Ultimately, in the face of this media shift, this year’s Brighton Photo Biennial is a crucial reminder of what is still tragically going on in the world. Its tone is sombre, and at times harrowing. It is also informative, and absolutely necessary.

The Brighton Photo Biennial runs until the 23rd November. For more information visit www.bpb.org.uk

Toot Sweet

XEROX Issue 3