Unseen Amsterdam celebrates its 10th edition

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The Amsterdam photofair celebrates its 10th edition with an accompanying group exhibition extending the boundaries of photographic creation into the visual arts

This September, Unseen Amsterdam celebrates its 10th edition. With the broad theme of ‘Photography in Wonderland’, the photofair presents works from 70 galleries at the city’s expansive Westergas cultural hub, plus a book market of 67 international publishers. Exhibition highlights include Mous Lamrabat, who also has a larger exhibition at the city’s Foam venue until October, and a series by Erwin Olaf in collaboration with ballet choreographer Hans van Manen. In addition to the gallery-selected collections, the fair presents the second edition of its own exhibition, Unbound.

Launched in 2021 as an ambitious addition to Unseen’s programme, the group show comprises works from 12 artists selected for their ability to push the “outer limits of the photographic universe”. While Unseen has traditionally been a trade-focused space, Unbound is designed to push the boundaries and the scale of what is expected from a photofestival.

Loft Gallery - Mous Lamrabat - Ceci n'est pas une Magritte

“The ‘festival’ dimension has always been part of the spirit of Unseen,” says Damarice Amao, curator of photography at Centre Pompidou in Paris and this year’s guest curator of Unbound. “The exhibition is an attempt to put into perspective the issues of current photographic production and to weave between various projects – formal, conceptual, theoretical narratives that the structure of a fair, with its organisation and its commercial obligations, does not allow.”

The 12 chosen projects in Unbound each explore the space in which photography crosses into other visual mediums. Digital art, installations, performance art, sculpture, virtual reality and video art will be represented. “For Unbound, I selected projects without having any prior guidelines. The mastery of the mediums used in each case, their aesthetic and experimental issues, were important criteria,” Amao explains. “The result is a selection of projects that are formally very different from each other, but which carry a strong vision of the current challenges of photographic creation. Those projects are also anchored, at various scales, in the questions of our contemporary lives.”

IBASHO - Sayuri Ishado - Absentee #250
Cosmic Green - Iris Bergman - Courtesy of Gallery Untitled kopie

“We are in need of tapping into our sense of wonder again, and if that is something that Unseen can contribute to by sharing the visions of all these artists, then I am proud of that”

Ostlicht - ANNA BREIT, Ohne Titel, aus der Serie Mama, 2018_07

Works selected by Amao include an installation by Polish photographer Marcin Dudek, based on the series Trans Hooligans, which explores subculture and belonging via the artist’s experiences of football fanaticism. Alongside this, spiritual themes spanning Tantra and Buddhism are combined with body diversity, sex positivity and female representation in Neoza Goffins’ virtual reality installation StarSeeds came down to bring Unalome. Other artists include Anna Malagrida, Jaya Pelupessy, and Michel Lamoller.

Recognising that photography often provides a starting point for other forms of visual art, Unbound was founded to provide a platform for developing all mediums and artists. This theme continues throughout Unseen’s more traditional programming, with exhibitors – international and contemporary photography galleries and upcoming initiatives – presented together, and without hierarchy, in a sprawling, circular formation.

This concept is, says Unseen director Roderick van der Lee, about creating an environment in which each artist’s work – rather than the ecosystem behind it – is supported. “All elements are equally important to create a place where the established and undiscovered can enter into dialogue,” he says. “I think we are in need of tapping into our sense of wonder again, and if that is something that Unseen can contribute to by sharing the visions of all these artists, then I am proud of that.”

Unseen Amsterdam runs from 15 to 18 September 2022 at Westergas, Amsterdam. unseenamsterdam.com2