Photoworks’ festival in a box: “It’s giving the audience the opportunity to become a curator”

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When Covid-19 hit, the Brighton-based organisation had to rethink the model of the traditional festival. The result was a “Covid-proof” outdoor exhibition, and the opportunity to experience it at home

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about many challenges for festivals, galleries and publications, most of which have migrated online, or postponed until next year and beyond. But, for Photoworks, this time of crisis has been an opportunity to reflect and rethink. This year, the organisation rebranded its two-yearly event, the Brighton Photo Biennial, presenting a new outdoor festival installed across the city, as well as the option for it to be experienced at home, through a limited-edition ‘festival in a box’.

Containing prints that fold out in varying sizes, as well as wall labels and texts to supplement them, the “portable festival” enables viewers to take on the role of the curator, deciding where and how to install it. Designed by Swiss artists Gilliane Cachin and Joshua Schenkel, the box includes artworks by all of the artists participating in the outdoor festival: Farah Al Qasimi, Lotte Andersen, Poulomi Basu, Roger Eberhard, Ivars Gravlejs, Pixy Liao, Alix Marie, Ronan Mckenzie, Sethembile Msezane, Alberta Whittle and Guanyu Xu.

Shoair Mavlian, director of Photoworks, explains: ​“Each of the artworks can be installed on your own walls: at home, in your office, in a gallery, in your classroom or within your community. Use nails, tape or clips to hang it in your preferred space. Or keep it folded, as a special object on your bookcase.”

Photoworks’ approach to their programming this year has centered around access and power. The boxes have been sent to schools, universities, institutions and artists across the UK and internationally, alongside an online programme of talks and events. “There’s a lot of conversations around hierarchy that have become more apparent over the last few months. This is something we were thinking about a lot last year, about how we can share this power and give other people opportunities,” says Mavlian. “This year’s festival is about asking what the possibilities are for photography in the future, and showing exciting artists that are making photography at this moment.” 

Photoworks’ festival in a box can be purchased here.

Marigold Warner

Marigold Warner joined the British Journal Photography in April 2018, and currently holds the position of Online Editor. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Gal-dem, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.