Eight artists have considered the multiple global crises of our era, including emergencies from Covid-19 to anti-Black violence, in a new exhibition. ‘The Horizon is Moving Nearer’, at the Portuguese Centre of Photography in Porto, juxtaposes different forms of media including film and imagery to look at topics as diverse as toxic masculinity, eco-fascism, cyber-security and Trump. 

‘In one way or another they are all operating at the limits of contemporary documentary practice insofar as their projects transcend conventional narrative approaches,’ says curator Tim Clark. ‘Instead they embrace experimental structures for building a photographic body of work – non-linear storytelling and fragmentation are two devices that have been foregrounded, for instance. Questions of authorship, realism and truth, as well as the ways in which photographs are used and function as documents also come to bear too.’

Pixellated picture of Boris Johnson next to plays on the word Brexit
A black gun against a red background
Above, Simon Roberts, The Brexshit Times, (2021). Courtesy the artist © Simon Roberts. Below, Salvatore Vitale, How to Secure a Country (2014-19). Courtesy the artist © Salvatore Vitale

The artists Lisa Barnard, Poulomi Basu, Nancy Burson, Maxime Matthys, Gideon Mendel, Simon Roberts, Salvatore Vitale and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa consider topics without attempting to resolve them, instead making links between the wider atmosphere and specific events.

When placing these events in context, they are able to evaluate them in a way which bypasses the natural limitations usually inherent in their mediums. ‘For my part, I want to use images as a means of understanding certain mechanisms and processes that not only reproduce structural inequality or different injustices, but make them so everyday that those processes are rendered ‘natural’ or invisible,’ adds Clark. ‘I also think we can also conceive of installation as a natural extension of story-telling.’

Three people sat a table with their faces scatched out
Maxime Matthys 2091: The Ministry of Privacy (2019). Courtesy the artist © Maxime Matthys

The works explore issues through multiple perspectives in a bid to express the complexity of the issues, arriving, ultimately, at positive conclusions – expressed both in a belief in the overriding power of human compassion and in the power of art to transform our thinking. ‘Sometimes I feel that more straightforward modes of documentary can fail us,’ says Clark. ‘Or at least those overly-literal and descriptive approaches tend to reduce or oversimplify vast and interconnected issues (such as those that are broached in the show) to spectacle or something that’s too neatly packaged or aestheticised.’

It could be argued that the artistic strategies here are a more accurate reflection of the true nature of today’s societies and troubled times we live in – the chaos and contradictions. In many ways then, ‘The Horizon is Moving Nearer’ is a story of stories that seeks to articulate links across the roots of various, interconnected forms of oppression. ‘That’s why you see a lot of a deep layering going on’, says Clark. ‘The emphasis is placed on the viewer and their perception - in order to make them do some work.’ §


A man and a woman standing in water up to their waist
Gideon Mendel Submerged Portraits from Deluge (2018). Courtesy the artist © Gideon Mendel