Photography Who are the finalists of the 7th “MAST Photo Grant”?
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Who are the finalists of the 7th “MAST Photo Grant”?

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Laura Tota
Mast Photo Grant | Collater.al

Until May 1st, the MAST Foundation in Bologna hosts the finalist projects of the “Mast Photography Grant on Industry and Work“, a biennial selection of young photographers that aims to document and support the research on the image of the industry, the transformation that it induces in society and in the territory and the role of work for economic and productive development.

The huge spaces of the MAST, opened since 2013, are accessible free of charge and present a series of permanent works and interventions, which are associated with temporary projects that analyze the theme of work mainly through photographic investigation.

Under the curatorship of Urs Stahel, the five finalists of the Grant, bring a kaleidoscopic analysis whose field of investigation moves between present, past and future of the relationship between Work, Man and Society.

“The MAST Foundation, through the MAST Photography Grant on Industry and Work – explains Urs Stahel – offers young photographers the opportunity to deal with the problems related to the world of industry and technology with the systems of work and capital, with the inventions, developments and the universe of production. And often, their innovative and unpublished gaze forces us to clash with inconsistencies, fractures, phenomena and perhaps even abysses that until now we had neglected or tried not to see”.

Concentrating the field of research on work is symptomatic, in fact, of how this affects the life of successive generations, shaking them in their foundations: we have witnessed in the last 250 years a “permanent revolution”, evolution of the “Industrial” one, in which innovation stands as a paradigm to be pursued at all costs and in which a new figure emerges, that of the “Permanent Worker”, who needs constant and continuous learning, otherwise his very disappearance.

The projects of the 5 finalists, exhibited with attention to set-ups and staging, face the changes that affect the rapid transformation of the world of work. 

The poetic tale of “Keep the Light Faithfully” and the missed/real stories staged by the South African photographer Lebohang Kganye is expressed in a theater of Chinese shadows aesthetically perfect thanks to lighting, and it stages moments of South African life with silhouettes of photographed characters, cut out and applied on cardboard.

From emotion, we move on to the surgical and precise analysis by Salvatore Vitale who in “Death by GPS” analyzes the link between the gig economy and mining in the Gauteng region of South Africa. In the setting, curated by the exhibit designer Andrea Isola, the electric blue of the walls recurring in technology, dialogues with the fluorescent colors of the frames made by a 3d printer, thus recalling the industrial world and suggesting a reflection on the role of man in experiencing the advent of a new technological revolution. 

Mast Photo Grant | Collater.al
Mast Photo Grant | Collater.al

Contrasting visions and analyses, therefore, that return a kaleidoscopic reading of the Universe – work, also outlining the evolutions over time and the influence on the social and territorial fabric: an example is the winning project of this seventh edition, “In Praise of Slowness” by Hicham Gardaf and the project “Red River Blues (Dearborn)” by Farah Al Qasimi.

In the first one, the praise of slowness becomes the analytical tool through which to investigate the contradictions of Tangier, the birthplace of the photographer who lives a strong tension between its most prosperous, thriving and expanding part and the ancient charm of its historic center. The slow pace and the wide range of the setting visually return the calm and reflective pace of the people and street vendors who populate the heart of the Moroccan city, as well as the warm shades chosen to complement the space.Instead, the investigation of “Red River Blues (Dearborn)” by Farah Al Qasimi deals with the concept of coexistence, focusing on the large Arab community of Dearborn, in Michigan, the birthplace of Henry Ford and the historic seat of the Ford Motor Company: this urban area also shows a hybrid character, expression of two cultures, the Arab and the American ones. The author conveys in the exhibition spaces this feeling of continuous renegotiation of cultural and territorial identities through a collage, reminiscent of urban mural painting, in which in the same space converge the same personal and cultural overlaps and codifications that continually redefine their staying in the place and redefine its characteristics.

Mast Photo Grant | Collater.al
Mast Photo Grant | Collater.al

Of impact, the project by Maria Mavropoulou “In Their Own Image, In The Image of God They Created Them”. The theme of the relationship between Man and Technology is dear to the Greek author who investigates the ways of creating images through new technologies over the years. In the project, the photographer uses artificial intelligence technology, inserting a series of text prompts into a text-to-image algorithm: ‘A complex and sophisticated structure of tubes, valves, manometers, used in oil refineries’. Through data mining, images are generated from a virtually infinite iconographic database. Once the most suitable image has been chosen, Mavropoulou arrives at the final result by multiplying the tiles, mirroring and replicating them in order to create something that is at the same time familiar and disturbing to the observer. The large formats of the prints catapult the visitor inside the images, making it feel part of a mechanical mechanism and arousing reflection on the future development of artificial intelligence in relation to the world of work.

The exhibition also gathers the winners of the Grant of the past edition and can be visited for free until May 1st.

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Written by Laura Tota
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