Sunday, September 30, 2012

Everything was Moving - Photography from the 60s and 70s, Barbican Gallery

Sigmar Polke, Der Bärenkampf (The Bear Fight), 1974 Froehlich Collection, Stuttgart © The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne, DACS 2012 Boris Mikhailov: 'Yesterday’s Sandwich / Superimpositions', 1960s-1970s

The world changed dramatically in the 1960s and 1970s. From the Cultural Revolution to the Cold War; from America’s colonialist misadventure in Vietnam to the indelible values of the civil rights movement; this was the defining period of the modern age. It also coincided with a golden age in photography: the moment when the medium flowered as a modern art form.

I saw Everything Was Moving at the Barbican yesterday. It is a great exhibition and I was led around it by the narrative provided by the detail in the captions. It illustrated perfectly the importance of context - these photographs were anchored firmly in the moments they came from - social, political and personal. Where the captions had been misplaced in the passing of time, the curators had substituted them with a close match.

A picture of a room with two bath-tubs became the pit stop for the mine supervisor to have first a 'dirty' bath, followed by a clean one; a luxury given the conditions of most working in the mine which followed. The pensive shop-worker was brought to life as the nervous daughter, shortly before her father's counter at which she was standing, was bulldozed to make way for the ignorance of white supremacy. And Afghanistan as the centre of zen spirituality, meditation and art, which led to Sigmar Polke's presence at a bear & dog fight.

A really moving & immersive exhibition, go see it.