FORMAT21 announces an Open Call for CONTROL, the International Photography Festival

September 7, 2020

FORMAT21 is delighted to announce the festival theme CONTROL and welcomes diverse and imaginative proposals from international photographers, curators, artists and collectives. Our eminent panel of international experts and the FORMAT Curators will view the submissions and select up to 35 projects to be exhibited at FORMAT21 in March 2021.

Invited from around the world, our Advisory Jury includes:
Erik Kessels (Netherlands), Gwen Lee (Singapore), He Yining (China), Gemma Marmalade (UK), Brian Griffin (UK), Wang Peiquan & Isabella Xueke Wang(China), Azu Nwagbogu (Nigeria), Wang Baoguo (China), Fiona Shields (UK), Tanya Habjouqa (Jordan), Skinder Hundal (UK), Simon Bainbridge (UK), Tanvi Mishra (India), Emma Bowkett (UK), Anna Kucma and Stella Nantongo (Uganda), Louise Fedotov-Clements (UK), and MacDonaldStrand (Gordon MacDonald & Clare Strand) (UK)

The theme for FORMAT21 is CONTROL, it is rich, deep and wide. It is about power, politics, relationships, history, propaganda, borders, trust, truth, freedom, knowledge, digital realm, direction, storytelling, narrative, curation, fabricating fictions, surveillance, dystopia and much more. We are open to featuring all kinds of photography, contemporary, performative and archival. The festival will explore and challenge the idea of CONTROL through how we represent the ever changing world, society, imaginations, relationships, lands and histories. Works can be focussed on any subject, as long as you articulate a connection to your ideas in relation to CONTROL in your application.

We are living in truly transformative times, the Covid-19 crisis has brought about profound challenges worldwide, the impact is yet unknown. Will we remember this time as the beginning of drifting away from each other along national divides, the fragmentation of societies into conflicted communities or will it be a historical moment of cooperation and solidarity? The recent months have seriously contested our health systems, economies and have rocked social cohesion, the world as we knew it has been seriously shaken. The virus crisis has disrupted our perception of ‘normality’, misinformation, propaganda and power politics are rife. People around the world have taken to the streets in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, climate justice and more, while shifting power systems and inequality further push us to reconsider our entire way of life, consequently there will be deep implications on how we build the future as we enter into the new normal.

CONTROL has many dimensions, at its core it consists of the act of influencing others and yourself through a chain of decisions, strategy, conditioning, power, habit and response. It also implies the losing of, or even defying of control. Photography is intrinsically part of the system of control, used as a tool to exert power and to communicate. Social media, facial recognition, algorithms and AI are all integrated and have begun to decide what or who is socially accepted or excluded. In the act of image production, we pivot between roles; as witnesses or accomplice, actor or voyeur. What happens to society when pictures are read by computers and no longer by humans and when reality is only perceived through an image, what power exerts control and what possibilities for change can they present? Artists and curators are used to controlling the focus on the relationships between images, text, sound and space, they can show us to what extent our sense of sight depends on technologies, ideologies, subtle relations and political strategies, they make the unseeable, seeable.

CONTROL is a theme that we invite you to think widely about, there are many ways to perceive it. We are looking for a wide range of submissions and are open to all approaches and ideas from the archive to the most contemporary and conceptual projects. Including proposals from all the image-based genres, long term researched documentary; multimedia; VR; moving image; installation; publications; online; interactive; performance; participatory; mobile and interactive. We want you to challenge us and respond to the theme in as many inventive ways as you can imagine.

Selected entries will be given the opportunity to exhibit at FORMAT21 and a chance to receive one of the festival awards. All submissions will receive the opportunity to be seen by our panel of industry experts and FORMAT Curators.

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