Out of space

By Harry van Versendaal

The Photography Museum of Thessaloniki, the country’s only museum dedicated to the craft, is currently organizing the 21st International Photography Meeting, now known as the PhotoBiennale, which is scheduled to run through September.

Having grown in size and prestige over the past few years, the PhotoBiennale has also become more outward-looking, forging ties with foreign institutions and festivals while introducing a number of welcome initiatives, such as master classes and portfolio reviews.

The event, which this is year dedicated to the theme of “place,” spans over 58 group and solo exhibitions and slideshow projections by 188 photographers from 25 countries. You can browse through them at some 35 galleries and exhibition centers in Thessaloniki. Organizers plan to showcase some of the work in other Greek towns later in the year.

This year’s highlights include Nikos Markou’s “Topos: Nuances of Space,” a collection of multilayered and often ambiguous pictures of urban and natural landscapes that depict man’s impact on nature – only subtly so. Markou’s work, which you will find at the museum’s beautiful brick-and-steel premises on the waterfront (Warehouse A, Thessaloniki port complex), is complemented by Inge Rambow’s “Niemandsland.” The stunning images of industrial sites turned wastelands shot by the 70-year-old German highlight the devastating effect of humankind on their natural environment.

Both exhibitions run through August 31.

Drive up to the Byzantine Castle and Seven Towers Prison (“Yenti Koule”) on the upper side of town to see “Execution Squares” by Damascus-born Hrair Sarkissian. The apparent innocuousness of these empty Syrian squares can be misleading for, as the title suggests, they serve as public execution grounds for criminals sentenced to death. Shows at the Seven Towers Prison wrap up on June 28.

The launch of the PhotoBiennale is an achievement in itself, organizers said, as the museum had to brave severe budget cuts and organizational snags. The Photography Museum of Thessaloniki, which has come under pressure to merge with the larger but troubled State Museum of Contemporary Art, has turned to the European Union for subsidies.

Fresh funding will be crucial for organizing the follow-up to this event, scheduled for 2012, which is set to complete the time/place/discourse trilogy.

More at Mylos

Mylos (56 Andreou Georgiou), at the western end of town, this year hosts a number of exhibitions including Pavlos Fysakis’s melancholy “Land Ends” project. The work, a product of the photographer’s extensive wandering at the four edges of Europe – Norway, Greece, Portugal and Russia – explores quasi-existential questions about the concept of borders and the nature of European identity.

“Homeland” by Turkey’s Serkan Taycan is in similar vein, being a semiautobiographical work, bringing together images of contemporary Turkey and snapshots from the largely impoverished region of eastern Anatolia, where the photographer grew up.

New York photographer Leah Tepper Byrne documents The Children’s Village, a 150-year-old residential treatment center and alternative site to incarceration for more than 200 boys, aged 6 to 21, in upstate New York. Moving, albeit sometimes disturbing, the images in “Still Lives“ explore youths caught between isolation and healing.

A more editorial work, Nikos Pilos’s “The Invisible Wall Line” revisits Berlin 20 years after the fall of the Wall, while in “Sanalika” (the Turkish word for virtual world) Alexandros Avramidis exposes the plastic but colorful – and often hilariously tacky – aspects of a consumption-driven world.

Exhibitions at Mylos will be showcased until July 31.

For more information visit: http://www.photobiennale.gr

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