At Unseen, we believe in providing platforms for the presentation and discovery of new photographic work. This year, alongside the traditional gallery stands, we have invited four international initiatives that share this vision to the fair. From magazines to schools to artist-run spaces, the Unseen Niches represent a spectrum of innovative and forward-thinking approaches to sourcing, supporting and fostering the work of young artists. In the last of our Niche Spotlights, we meet the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, a university of applied sciences for Fine Arts and Design in Amsterdam.
Unseen finds out about their mission and approach to photography.
Photography is a medium that is in constant evolution. How does the structure of the course reflect this?
The medium is at the centre of our visual culture. The department offers a programme in which photography is not taken for granted but rather put under scrutiny and challenged to create autonomous, conceptual works. It is used as a tool for analysis and reflection on the dominance of visuals today. The medium serves as a catalyst and students in the department graduate with autonomous photography, videos, installations, objects and combinations of different media.
The authors we tutor need not be ‘makers’ in the traditional sense of the word. They are also editors, applying photography as a medium or de-constructing it. They might develop an approach which interrogates its strategies and methodologies. On the other hand, the long-established essence of photography – or the split of the second in which the shutter frames the world – is still compelling and actively taken on board in the projects executed by the students. To combine all of these approaches and stay open to newly developed attitudes and modes of production is how the course reflects and anticipates the constant evolution of photography.
How is the department different to other academies in the Netherlands?
From my knowledge, no other academy in the Netherlands has the same approach to conceptual and autonomous photography. In our department, the development of your own vision and visual tools is at the core of the curriculum. Other applications of photography, such as commercial, documentary and journalistic photography are not taught as such.
Tell us about the work the Rietveld graduates will be showing at Unseen Photo Fair.
We have chosen students according to the context of the fair and therefore have not selected any video work.The four students occupy very different sides of the photographic spectrum. The works of Oreo JungMin Cho (b. 1979, Korea) can be seen mostly as ‘pure’ photography. Young teenagers in improvised encounters stare into the world or gaze through you as a viewer. Jannemarein Renout (b. 1969, The Netherlands) made use of cameraless processes, resulting in an exciting series called SCAN2400, which consists of abstract images that are aesthetically pleasing and challenge the notions of representation and abstraction in photography. Naoyuki Hata (b. 1979, Japan) created ambiguous images that force the viewer to come closer. The nature of painting and photography and the status of the object collide and coincide in large-scale colour prints. Cheryl Schurgers’ (b. 1991, The Netherlands) project is about identity and the fragility of the body. In a series she made with her close family, she depicts and fictionalises her own reality, to the extent that the images become like film stills.
At Unseen, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie presents the work of four alumni who graduated in June 2014, representing some of the diverse approaches developed individually during the three years of study. Rietveld’s presentation also includes a series of publications, produced over the last academic year by students from different specialisation years.