FORMAT21: CONTROL - international photography festival 12th March – 11th April

FORMAT21: CONTROL - international photography festival 12th March – 11th April
“If you don’t control your mind, someone else will” - Barbara Kruger
Virtually & in venues across Derby
The theme for the tenth edition of FORMAT - the UK’s leading international photography festival - is Control.
Control can be passive, progressive and aggressive. Control can provide opportunities or suppress ambitions. It can be birth control, state control, border control, remote control, self-control, command and control. We can be in control, out of control, beyond control.
Founder and director of FORMAT Louise Fedotov-Clements, along with fellow FORMAT curators, Niamh Treacy, Laura O’Leary and Peter Bonnell, have curated the exciting festival programme featuring over 90 projects by artists, collectives and the mass participation Instagram event, inspired by Covid19, #massisolationFORMAT.
FORMAT21: Programme
• Open Call Exhibitions
This year’s Open Call received over 800 submissions from 66 countries and the 50 selected projects explore many manifestations of the festival theme, ranging from the struggle for control in the personal and political spheres; the oppressive control of 24 hour surveillance; the liberation from control through self-expression to the lack of control that is a consequence of discrimination and deprivation.
Very contemporary ideas of self-control as expressed through health and well-being are explored in Tami Aftab’s visualisation her father’s illness, hydrocephalus, in The Dog’s in the Car, while Etinosa Yvonne’s multi-media project It’s All In My Head looks at the state of mental health, due to violence, amongst people in Nigeria. Mitchell Moreno presents a self-portrait of his struggles with mental health under lockdown in Pandemaniac and Elena Helfrecht examines the influence of family history as a contributor to psychological trauma over repeated generations.
We are presented with the idea of state control in Cemre Yeşil Gönenli’s archive project Hayal & Hakikat, which represents photographs of early 20th Century manacled prisoners in Turkey and in Felipe Romero Beltrán’s re-staging of police restraint methods in Reduccion. Closer to home David Biro takes a playful look at surveillance and facial recognition in Do You Accept Cookies?
Identity and discrimination as forms of control are explored in a number of projects including in Shine Heroes by Federico Estol about a band of secret shoe shiners in Bolivia; in River Claure’s Warawar Wawa about the ethnographic appropriation of a nation’s identity; in Sima Choubdarzadeh’s examination of Iran’s patriarchal society in My Name is Fear and in Jenny Matthews’ long term project on women and conflict.
Other Exhibitions:
• Matrix: Fluid bodies, Unlimited thoughts
The keynote curator for FORMAT21 is Marina Paulenka, founder and artistic director of Organ Vida Photography Festival in Zagreb and former Artistic Director of Unseen, Amsterdam. Paulenka will explore the theme of Control through gender fluidity and the body politics as expressed through the work of visual artists – Tabita Rezaire and Juliana Huxtable in the exhibition Matrix: Fluid Bodies, Unlimited Thoughts.
• Black Country Dada
FORMAT21 will be hosting the launch of FORMAT patron Brian Griffin’s second volume of his autobiography Black Country Dada in which Griffin’s talks about his experience of working with leading art directors on magazines, album covers and advertising in photography’s pre-digital era. 
• Here, There and Everywhere*
Previously in 2020 FORMAT collaborated with Azu Nwagbogu of the African Artists Foundation on a virtual mentoring programme with three African based artists – Anthony Bila, Sipho Gongxeka and Uzoma Orji. Their distinctive work focuses on LGBTQ communities in South Africa and Nigeria and will be presented in a group show at FORMAT21.
• Linea – Magnum Photographers
The Magnum photography agency will be presenting the European premier of Linea. The work of 14 photographers, this long term project captures life along the border between Mexico and USA and the impact of the construction of Donald Trump’s wall.
• No More Flags
Writer and curator Gordon MacDonald and artist Clare Strand respond to populism and the rise of the far right in No More Flags by manipulating and removing content from flags found in photographs of demonstrations in the UK and America.
• Huddled Masses
At a time when social distancing has become the new norm, W.M Hunt’s exhibition Huddled Masses, drawn from his collection of photographs of mass gatherings and group photos, reminds us of our innate human desire to want come together.
• #massisolationFORMAT
Covid19 has dominated the world’s media since its first appearance in Wuhan and in March 2020 Fedotov-Clements wanted to collect photographic responses to it by inviting photographers to tag their Covid19 inspired images with #massisolationFORMAT. The result was overwhelming with over 40,000 images from 90 countries being tagged. The images ranged from chronicling common experiences and scenes to surreal expressions of lockdown. 
FORMAT has partnered with the photography and design studio - The People’s Picture - led by Helen Marshall to produce both a physical photomosaic and digital archive of the curated images from #massisolationFORMAT which will form the main exhibition at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery. 
The mass isolation mosaic will also be shown as a public art installation in Derby’s Market Square and will launch the festival on 12th March. Printed onto a giant vinyl the mosaic will be wrapped around the QUAD art centre enabling everyone passing by, to see many of the 40,000 images submitted to #massisolationFORMAT.
A second selection from #massisolationFORMAT will be curated by Brigitte Lardinois and Paul Lowe from the London College of Communications’ archive PARC for exhibition during the festival.

Our Response to COVID19

The Covid19 pandemic has presented many challenges for the world’s cultural events and institutions, in particular the difficulty of hosting exhibitions in real spaces. FORMAT21 is working with Derby based businesses and art organisations to find safe ways to produce the festival so local residents and visitors to the city can see and attend the exhibitions.
Alongside the physical festival FORMAT21 will also be presented online. With a £40,000 grant from the Art Fund, Fedotov-Clements together with Debbie Adele Cooper and the team at QUAD, is working with the Los Angeles based tech organisation – New Art City – to present the entire festival in a major new online multiplayer venue. Presenting FORMAT21 as a digital festival will push the boundaries of how we can share art in the digital world and pioneers how artists can present their ideas beyond physical boundaries. Visitors to the digital festival will be able to meet friends, navigate the exhibitions with curated tours and attend events such as the FORMAT Portfolio Review and festival conference.

Festival Events:

  • 11th March Private views and launch of digital festival 
  • 12th March The FORMAT21 all-day virtual conference organised by DMARC, University of Derby, which will look at the theme of the festival -CONTROL.
  • 19th and 20th March The annual FORMAT21 Portfolio Review, will be virtual this year with over 50+ international photography professionals, the UK’s largest gathering of experts, offering help and advice to photographers. 

In support of the festival’s commitment to bringing photography to a new audience, FORMAT21 will run a series of educational programmes and family friendly events, including participatory workshops, classes and talks throughout the festival.

What they say about FORMAT: 
"A deftly curated festival that reflects the breadth of contemporary photography." - Sean O’Hagan
"FORMAT provides an unrivalled platform for leading photographers from around the world to gather, show and discuss their work." - Brian Griffin 
"Scholarly, stimulating and up to the standards of its international peers."Francis Hodgson
"FORMAT is a truly ambitious and huge enterprise, an intelligently and coherently curated festival."Arts Council England.

FORMAT 2004 - 2021: By the numbers 

Festivals: 10
Exhibitors 6000+
Countries 100+
Visitors 1,000,000+
FORMAT21: CONTROL - 12th March – 11th April 2021
Instagram @formatfestival
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