Amsterdam’s Foam museum stages a compelling line up of photography exhibitions from Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs to Kaveh Golestan
Too much explanation can ruin art. Illusions are shattered and the magic goes up in smoke. But sometimes, going behind the curtain and seeing how make-believe is created, is actually a good thing. That’s what happened while wandering through Foam photography museum in Amsterdam.
Besides Richard Mosse’s pounding installation ’The Enclave’, where the magic is conjured up by nightmarish landscapes in dazzling magenta and red, there’s room for two more exhibitions in the old canal house (though let’s not forget Ola Lanko’s small presentation in the upstairs library). After winning the annual Foam Paul Huf Award last year, Swiss duo Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs presents ’Adding, Adding, Adding’. This brand new show, made especially for Foam, proves to be a moderate, yet highly effective demonstration of the way photography can put reality on display as if it’s undoubtedly real.
Besides photography, Onorato and Krebs use installation art and sculpture with lots of mirrors and film lighting to prove their point. The pair’s method consists of layering; showing the illusion and the making-of at the same time, without jeopardising the thrill of the work. In fact, one can easily be mesmerised by what seems like a moving poster on the wall, displaying a real time dance of forms and colours, and be confronted with the backside of the work, where it’s ’only’ the combination of rotating pieces of glass, TL-lighting and an old camera that does the trick, without for one second being disenchanted. Reality, magic and disillusionment - it all remarkably adds up.
In another part of Foam, an exhibition of the work of Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan (who was killed by a landmine, while working in Iraq in 2003) is also revealing the mechanism. ’The Citadel’ shows Golestan’s vivid portraits of the female prostitutes of Shahr-e No, an old neighbourhood in Tehran that was set on fire and demolished in 1979. These are vintage black and white photographs from the seventies, which have been battered by history. They have a past, which is hovering above them.
That past is part of the exhibition. Here, you can see the magic being created by the careful layering of historical material (newspaper clippings, diaries, contact sheets, a documentary), which accompanies the pictures. Curator and researcher Vali Mahlouji brings to life the tumultuous perception of Golestan’s photographs through years of oppression by the Iranian government. Too much explanation? No way, it all adds up.