Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography


Project description

Autograph is developing a series of artist commissions titled Critical Times: Dialogues in Contemporary Photography.

Jointly selected in collaboration with the Bagri Foundation, three contemporary artists from diverse cultural backgrounds have been commissioned to produce new photographic bodies of work for our artistic programmes, which will be accessioned into Autograph’s permanent collection of photography and shared online.

The commissioned artists – Sim Chi Yin, Reena Saini Kallat and Laura El-Tantawy – are supported to develop new series that reflects their established research-led and often interdisciplinary visual art practices.

They were invited to respond to an open brief, taking into consideration unfolding global politics of our time in relation to migration and climate crises, freedom of movement, health and wellbeing, activism, social change, and environmental justice, as well as memory work, hope and futurity.

Each new artist commission will be contextualised by poetic responses by writers Nina Mingya Powles, Shagufta Iqbal and Nisha Ramayya as well as curatorial in-conversations with the artists about the making and shaping of the work. The commissions will be launched digitally on Wednesday 16th November 2022, with a dedicated public online event.

Artists’ biographies 

Sim Chi Yin (born 1978, Singapore) is a research-led visual artist whose interdisciplinary practice focuses on history, conflict, migration and memory, often combining photography, moving image, archival interventions and text-based performance in her multi-layered works. Chi Yin’s work has been exhibited internationally, including at institutions and festivals such as Zilberman Gallery, Berlin; Les Rencontres d’Arles; Landskrona Foto Festival, Sweden; Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong; Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore; Nobel Peace Museum, Oslo; Aesthetica Art Prize, York Art Gallery, UK; Jendela (Visual Arts Space) Gallery, Singapore; Guangzhou Image Triennial, China; 15th Istanbul Biennial, Turkey amongst others.

Her work is in the collections of The Getty, Singapore Art Museum and the National Museum of Singapore. She was commissioned as the Nobel Peace Prize photographer in 2017. Chi Yin is represented by Zilberman Gallery in Berlin and Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong. She is completing a practice-based PhD at King’s College London and is currently based between New York and Berlin.

Reena Saini Kallat (born 1973, Dehli) is concerned with ideas that hold each other in tension evolving from her interest in political and social borders — and their violent cleaving through land, people and nature resonating with the continuing aftershocks of the Partition in India, which her family experienced. Her multifaceted practice works weaves together drawing, photography, collage, sculpture, and video to create layered enquiries into culture, history, and the role that memory plays – in not only what we choose to remember but also how we think of the past.Kallat has exhibited widely including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; SITE SantaFe, New Mexico; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Arken Museum of Modern Art, Ishøj; Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki amongst many others. Her works are held in collections including Musee de Beaux Arts (CA); Art Gallery of New South Wales (AU); Manchester Museum (UK); National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (TW); Vancouver Art Gallery (CA); Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney (AU); Norrtalje Konsthal (SE); Initial Access (Frank Cohen Collection) (UK); Pizzuti Collection (CA); Burger Collection (HK); Fondazione Golinelli (IT); Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (IN); Dr. Bhau DajiLad Museum (IN); National Gallery of Modern Art (IN) amongst others. She lives and works in Mumbai, India.

Laura El-Tantawy (born 1980, Worcestershire) is a British-Egyptian documentary photographer and book maker who investigates notions of home and belonging, routinely approaching her work from a social and environmental perspective inspired by her transatlantic background. Her visual explorations often intertwine moving images, sound, and personal narratives, marked by the artist’s lyrical eye on reality.

El-Tantawy’s work In The Shadow of the Pyramids was shortlisted for Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize (2016); in 2020, she received the prestigious Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Award, as well as the PH Museum Women’s Grant. Her works have been included in exhibitions at Centro de Fotografia, Montevideo; Photo2021, Melbourne; FotoFest International Biennial, Houston; Seen Fifteen, London; Instituit des Cultures d’Islam Paris; Nuit Blanche, Brussels; The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool amongst others.

Poets’ biographies

Shagufta Iqbal Co-founder of Kiota Bristol and the Yoniverse Collective, Shagufta K Iqbal is an award-winning writer, workshop facilitator and Tedx Speaker. One of Asiana Magazine’s favourite British Asian poets, she has been described by gal-dem as a poet whose work ‘leaves you validated but aching –her narratives are important, heart-wrenching and relatable.’ Her poetry collection ‘Jam Is For Girls, Girls Get Jam’ has been recommended by Nikesh Shukla as ‘a social political masterclass.’ Her poetry film ‘Borders’ has won several awards, and has been screened across international film festivals, including London Short Film Festival, Glasgow Short Film Festival, Athena Film Festival. She is currently writing her second poetry collection and debut novel.

Nina Mingya Powles is a zinemaker, writer and librarian from Aotearoa New Zealand, currently based in London. Magnolia 木蘭, her debut poetry collection, was published in 2020 and shortlisted for the Forward Prize and the New Zealand Book Awards. She is also the author of a food memoir, Tiny Moons: A Year of Eating in Shanghai, and a collection of essays on water, migration and belonging, titled Small Bodies of Water.

Nisha Ramayya grew up in Glasgow and now lives in London. Her poetry collection States of the Body Produced by Love (2019) is published by Ignota Books. Recent projects and publications include: poems in Ludd Gang; a collaboration with sonic dramaturg MJ Harding performed at Wysing Polyphonic 2021: Under Ether (reviewed in Tank); a sequence of poems reflecting on Scotland’s colonial histories in CCA Annex; and an essay-poem in response to the work of mathematician Fernando Zalamea for Sonic Art Research Unit. She is currently working on a second poetry collection, tentatively called Now Let’s Take a Listening Walk, and teaching Creative Writing at Queen Mary University of London.

About Autograph

Established in 1988, Autograph’s mission is to champion the work of artists who use photography and film to highlight questions of race, representation, human rights and social justice.

Through doing so, we invite people to explore the creative and critical power of visual representation, in shaping our understanding of ourselves and of others.

Every year we engage hundreds of thousands of people locally, nationally and globally at our gallery in London, digitally and through projects in partner spaces.

Image credits: Sim Chi Yin, From the series Chronotopia (work in progress), 2021-22