Organ Vida photofestival returns to Croatia to ask the big questions

Who are we and where are we headed? Big questions that will involve even bigger debates lie at Organ Vida 2017, Croatia’s cutting-edge photography festival. From 06-20 September, this year’s edition aims to respond to and explore the worldwide political, social and economic chaos in which we currently find ourselves through its central theme – New Citizens.

“It is important to find and draw on what connects us. We asked artists to show us a voice of dissent, challenging the very things that are made by systems in power to keep us divided,” says artistic director Marina Paulenka, who founded the festival in 2009.

“We wanted [the idea of] ‘new citizens’ to extend conventional understandings confined to state, city and town: a citizen as an ‘anywhere-human’, beyond entitlement, nationality or allegiance to government – and what it means to be alive and to live in a post- capitalist, climate-changed 21st-century world.”

From the series Myths, Masks and Subjects © Alexandra Polina

The festival features 13 exhibitions alongside a packed programme of education and entertainment, including film screenings, workshops and a conference, Beyond the Documentary, scheduled for 09 September. Organ Vida’s main partner, the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, plays host to the festival’s flagship exhibition, featuring 10 photographers selected from its open call and including Daniel Castro Garcia, the winner of BJP’s International Photography Award 2017.

Exhibitions across the city include a Pieter Hugo retrospective; Dana Lixenberg’s award- winning Imperial Courts, in which she documents the community of the renowned Los Angeles social-housing project; Cristina de Middel’s Sharkification, exploring the battles between police and drug gangs in the favelas of Brazil; and Dragana Jurišić’s elegiac pilgrimage through the former Yugoslavia, YU: The Lost Country.

Sheng Wen Lo’s visual research into captive-animal programmes will also be exhibited; and Indefinitely by Katrin Koenning, a long-term project that tackles themes of family, distance and migratory space. In addition, Fotobookfestival Kassel will present the winning photobooks of the 2017 Kassel Dummy Award.

From the series Nollywood © Pieter Hugo
From the series YU: The Lost Country © Dragana Jurišić

Organ Vida is run by an umbrella organisation of the same name, and oversees a year-round programme of photography events including awards, exhibitions and publishing projects. “We consider Organ Vida to be a powerful visionary, a network that connects this part of Europe to the rest of the world,” says Paulenka.

“Organ Vida is a place, offering opportunities for young photographers from all over the globe. We want to create new discursive formats and concepts in which we can contemplate our reality. We hope that visitors will take away new knowledge, experiences, friendships and energy from this area, and from our beautiful country of Croatia.”

From the series Variation of White © Miia Autio
From the series The Outsider © John Feely
Diergaarde Blijdorp Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2016). From the series White Bear © Sheng Wen Lo
Solé, 2013 © Dana Lixenberg, courtesy of the artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam-New York