Michel Thomas | Utopia

Tore Sunesson, moderator talks with Michel Thomas, chair of the board.

Q – First of all Michel – as a theme for this version of Malmö Fotobiennal you choose UTOPIA why was that ?

Themes are an important part of Malmö Fotobiennal identity. It is a way to explore artist different approach to the visual art. Activism” and  ”Spectacle” and now Utopia as a new frontier to explore.

The theme”Utopia” can be seen as an introspection of our own inner images. Already in 1516, Thomas More wrote the book “Utopia” about a fictional society, but we can also recount the utopian idea in the film and fairytale world, as in “The Wizard of Oz” that makes us feel a golden way forward. Free church brochures offer us colourful pictures of the promised paradise. The Green Wave strives for a utopian world order but a dystopian image of the future is soaring but our consciousness and hope can not be tamed and the images remain.

Candide believed that we live in the best world possible, since it is the one we create. Is that so? The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek observes that for humanity today, ‘it is easier to imagine the end of life on Earth than it is to imagine the end of Capitalism

The images and body of work presented  in Malmö fotobiennal are mainly contemporary art project focusing on and exploring space, time and the concept of Utopia.

© Claire Laude

Q – It literally translates as “no place”, coming from the ancientt greek ο (“not”) and τόπος (“place”), and meant any non-existent society, for most of us the word’s meaning usually describes a non-existent future society that is considerably better than contemporary society.

A noplace / a nowhere land is still a place we want to reach. In politic but in the human nature as well. We are longing for utopia but it is a blury mirage in the desert. You walk towards it and it moves further away from you. so we keep on walking with no end in sight. In another meaning Ernst Bloch  in The Principle of Hope wrote that we can sail into dreams: Daydreams are possible. A great inner space is still open, still unknown in man…

© S. Roland. Ideal city

Q – Did you outline your expectations on Utopia in the Open Call ? How was the response?

It is a challenging theme for the artist and we did not know what projects we would receive. We got over 150 applications. 10 very intresting body of work from international artist were selected by a board of curators.

Q – You postponed the exhibition when the covid pandemic erupted and now the exhibition are shown in an online version. Did this change how we see the works presented ?

Of course, we are now testing a new approach with short film sequences that the artist have kindly sent to us. Further on we are creating a 3D gallery  with all projects online. It is a different approach that we want to develop further on.  Our budget is limited as well, making this Biennal challenging.

Q – Each of the choosen artist present themselves in their portfolio and a few in a short video – Was there something dominant in their approach ?

Malmö fotobiennal aim has been since 2015 to focus on contemporary artist using photography and film as  a media to express ideas. For example Stéphanie Roland from BELGIUM serie called ”Ideal city is a beautiful series of images that deliberately and knowingly blends science with fiction. Polina Karpova from Ukraine creates in her photo series – “Pretty Ghetto” her own utopia outside the grey city. Maja Ingerslev from Danmark photo series plays with our perception of nature and investigates our relationship to nature and its conventional representations. Elin Berge from Sweden project ”Awakening is an intimate documentation of a loosely compound, leaderless, and separatist spiritual awakening movement taking shape. Arseniy Neskhodimov from Russia. His work is more direct and a comment. Federico Estol from Uruguay is showing a project on shoe polish ”heroes” . 

© Claire Laude

Q – For this online exhibition you also invited a few local swedish artists and photographers. Are their work chosen from the same overall theme or are they different ?

Yes. The local artist have been a major part of the Biennal in 2015 and 2017 and we want to keep on showing work of artist  based in Malmö. We usually work in close collaboration with galleries and museum in Malmö but the pandemic made that difficult this time.

© Johan Webb

Q – Is there a plan for the future Malmö Fotobiennale ? In two years time ?

This years biennal was systematic of the theme: Utopian almost unreachable. We will have to evaluate the impact and the responds of the Biennal online. In 2 years time we will probably have a mix of the real and the virtual. 

Michel Thomas. Chair of the board.