The exhibitions and preliminary program can be found here.

Off Balance

Earth, air, water, and fire. The four essential elements that were once believed to make up the entire universe are also still the basis of our economic principles: digging, burning, melting, evaporating, in order to fill the pockets of the 1% with money, at the expense of the planet and those other 99% of us who inhabit it, those who have no ambition or possibility to leave. PhotobookWeek Aarhus 2022 will draw on the poetic cycle of life and death in the Anthropocene as the background for considerations of the multiple crises that we are facing, the necessary changes, and possible ways forward into the uncertain times that await us. 

While the media haunts us with fearful images of our vanishing planet, many artists have developed strategies to leave the surface level and to dig deeper into the real problem of the environmental crisis in order to reveal who has the real power and how pollution, extraction, destruction, and negation are part of a fraudulent and dangerous global puppet show, where a few players pull all the strings, and we all dance to their rhythm.

Fear and despair have proven to be the worst enemies of balanced decision-making and critical thinking. Our role as creators, thinkers, educators and multipliers obliges us to ignore the distractions, conspiracy theories. and fake news thrown at us, and to vehemently discuss the real issues at stake in our works, writings and lectures. It is true that as a species, we are still heavily engaged in proactive self-destruction, however, self-flagellation is good for nothing: Only if we overcome guilt and forgive ourselves, we will be able to forge, with sadness, joy and determination, the future of our societies, and our (only) planet.

This year’s festival theme reflects our attempt(s) to cope with the contemporary condition of global imbalance and insecurity. Climate change pressuring a possible catastrophe for humanity, the unsustainable gap between rich and poor, plastic pollution and the drastic decrease of biodiversity, the first pandemic in over a century, and a war that has provoked not only an energy crisis in Europe, but also a global food crisis. These are examples of a world with complicated issues that need to be addressed, but are constantly confronted with political divisions and economic interests. With the theme Off Balance, the ninth edition of PWA presents these twisted realities in and through the photobook medium. 

Several of the exhibitions will interpret the festival theme, such as Endangered Landscapes, on the transformation of the Alpine landscape, and the showcasing of the books and films of Edward Burtynsky, who has been working on environmental issues for more than three decades. Ukrainian photo books after Maidan will highlight the country’s art and culture in order to provide insight into a country that is currently at the centre of global politics, but which has not been widely explored or discussed in these terms. Our regional focus this year will be on Canada. 

As in previous editions, we see it as our mission and privilege to play with, and around, the borderline between artists’ books, photobooks, multiples and other editioned works on paper. This year’s main exhibition, on the NO!art group can been seen as yet another attempt in this direction, in the same line as our shows about Marcel Duchamp’s valise and the Fluxus movement in past editions. This exhibition on the artist group around Boris Lurie, Sam Goodman and Stanley Fisher has been made possible by the generous support of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation. Apart from several key works from the three founding members, our main focus is on the legendary NO BOX, a multiple by the German Edition Hundertmark, published in 1996. A printed catalog will featured these works, as well as a small selection of unpublished texts from the archives of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation.

Other exhibitions and talks will celebrate the works of Walter Niedermayr, Nanna Debois Buhl, showcase Books on Books on Books, and present the shortlist of the Kassel Dummy Award. Furthermore, our Open Photobook Market will be organised this year in collaborations with the Reflektor platform, and a selection of Danish photobooks will be shown at the Hong Kong Photobook Festival. 

We envision Photobook Week Aarhus 2022 as an open and inclusive event that underlines the urgency for action, and the roles that art might play in the process of acceptance, grief, and collaborative action in the most important issues of our time.

Moritz Neumüller, Chief Curator, PWA