Belfast Photo Festival presents a bold vision of the future
Festival returns from 3 – 30 June 2021
Belfast Photo Festival, Northern Ireland's premier visual arts festival, will take over art galleries and public spaces throughout Belfast this June with a host of timely exhibitions exploring the role of photography in imagining new visions of the future.
Presenting a vibrant online and offline programme of immersive exhibitions, large scale outdoor art works, talks and events, the festival runs from 3 – 30 June 2021.
Taking "Future(s)" as its theme, this year's festival tackles issues as diverse as climate change, migration, the advancement of technology, government surveillance and the power of protest, to explore how the future is shaped by our actions in the present. Rather than presenting a singular vision of what this future might be or look like, the festival instead offers up a speculative, imaginative glimpse into the myriad possibilities of what might lie ahead.
Many of the exhibitions in this year's festival are underpinned by the particular urgency of rethinking our future in light of events of the past year, which have not only altered the course of humanity, but have also deepened and illuminated stark inequalities in society at large.
Change making, activism and social justice feature heavily in a number of festival projects. In American artist Davion Alston's works, shown at public sites across Belfast, images from Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer are collaged and adapted to posit protest as a form of world-making and a means of imagining better futures in times of trauma, chaos and violence.
The festival will also present the first solo exhibition of renowned artist Zanele Muholi on the Island of Ireland. One of the most acclaimed photographers working today, this spectacular outdoor exhibition at Queens University presents work from Muholi's ongoing project, Somnyama Ngonyama (translated as 'Hail the Dark Lioness'). These powerful and reflective images explore themes including labour, racism, Eurocentrism and sexual politics, and continue Muholi's engagement around the rights and representation of the LGBTQI+ community in South Africa and globally.
Other festival highlights include a number of projects exploring what is perhaps the greatest challenge facing mankind today: climate change and human impact on the planet. Mandy Barker's impressive LUNASEA, imagines a parallel planet made from plastic waste. Simon Norfolk and Klaus Thymann's 'Shroud', exhibited in the dramatic setting of Belfast's Riddel's Warehouse, presents a tragic and impactful document of global warming, while at Belfast Exposed Gallery, Swiss artist Marcel Rickli asks how we might warn future generations about sites of toxic nuclear waste, when the material itself is likely to outlive existing modes of communication, including current forms of language.
Alongside the exhibition programme, Belfast Photo Festival is hosting a month-long programme of online talks and events. Each week will explore a key element of the festival theme: Environmental Futures (week 1); Social Futures (week 2); Photographic Futures (week 3); Technological Futures (week 4).
Belfast Photo Festival takes place online, in public spaces across Belfast and in partner institutions: Belfast Exposed, Golden Thread Gallery, Cultúrlann, University of Atypical, and The Naughton Gallery at Queens University.