Foam Talent 2024:
Persistence & Preservation

Foam Talent 2024:<br>Persistence & Preservation

How does a photograph shape our understanding of the past? Images serve as a portal, encouraging us to peer into bygone eras, witness previous events, and grasp distant encounters. More than this, they invite us to question constructs of history and context. The camera offers up radical ways of new thought, prompting viewers to interrogate topics such as gender, knowledge and race. At the forefront of this is Foam Talent 2024-2025, a selection of 20 international artists that push the boundaries of image-making today. The 20 luminaries, chosen from over 2,000 submissions, contemplate the influence of photography on collective culture, joining a legacy of Foam Talent artists such as Jalan and Jibril Durimel, Juno Calypso and Vasantha Yogananthan. Included in this year’s cohort are Andrea Orejarena & Caleb Stein, a creative duo known for American Glitch, a series that questions what it means to live in a simulation, as well as Aesthetica-featured artist Cristóbal Ascencio, who uses digital tools to explore personal memory.

What does it mean to belong? This is a question posed by Cairo-based Rehab Eldalil (b. 1989) in The Longing of the Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken (شوق الغريب للي تقطّع سبيله). The project reconnects the artist to her roots as she explores the Bedouin community of St. Catherine in South Sinai, Egypt, an area that belonged to her ancestors. The series combines images and embroidered material, emphasising the strong connection of Bedouin communities to their land. Eldalil focuses on the Jebeleya, a tribe who has inhabited Sinai for more than 1400 years, having survived occupation, war and displacement. Throughout, they have looked to protect the region’s natural state. In one image, a group of women stretch out their arms, rejoicing under a broad blue sky. The picture captures the daily lives of the women of Al Tarfa. Each morning the group leads a herd of sheep and goats to feed on the wild plants of the surrounding mountains. As the herd feeds, the women talk, share concerns, ask for advice and learn from each other. They form a powerful sisterhood through mutual support, reinforced by their ritual keeping of the land.

In We Didn’t Choose to Be Born Here, Thero Makepe (b. 1996) explores the complex history of his family lineage. Makepe’s mother grew up in Botswana after escaping the Apartheid regime of South Africa, whilst his uncle, Zephania Mothopeng, an anti-Apartheid activist, was imprisoned on Robben Island. The work unfolds as a multi-dimensional visual journey, touching on activism, colonialism and land dispossession. Amongst this, it intertwines musical accompaniments, inspired by Makepe’s jazz musician grandfather, offering a playlist that features songs by Batsumi, Earl Sweatshirt, amongst others. The images evoke the intimate visual language of Lebohang Kganye, ranging from historical scenes and family snapshots to moments of total surrealism. In one picture, a man freely plays into a trumpet in the desert; in another, the same figure struggles, fully suited, underwater. Above his head appears a congregation of family members, flipped upside down, as if hanging from the sky. Elsewhere, Cristóbal Ascencio (b. 1988) engages with the memory of his father through 3D modelling that recreates the structure of plants. The artist uses digital techniques such as data bending and photogrammetry to recreate the last garden his parent worked on. Las flores mueren dos veces reimagines traditional vegetation such as Argentinian orchids and central American Monstera leaves. The resulting sequence is otherworldly. Glistening cuttings of trees shimmer with wonder. The images can be rotated, permitting users to inspect the compositions from every angle.

Organic matter is also explored by Shwe Wutt Hmon (b. 1986), a Burmese photographer with an experimental, emphatic oeuvre. During lockdown, Hmon was stuck at home and unable to visit hospital for her regular chek-ups and scans, necessary because of her chronic illness. In order to come to terms with this limitation, she started scanning her body, as well as flowers and medical records with an ordinary scanner. The subsequent I Do Miss Hospital Visit juxtaposes symbols of mortality, time and loss. It depicts pictures of scars alongside withering flowers. In the process, it “asks questions and creates metaphors for the decline of one’s body.” The artist explains, “Someone said fear is often born out of ignorance and encountering the unknown. The former can be dismissed, but the latter is inevitable. I have to create and stay alive.” It’s a sentiment that is representative of the Foam cohort, echoing these artists’ shared commitment to confronting the unfamiliar and their embracing of creativity as a means of survival.

Foam Talent 2024-2025 | Until 22 May

Image Credits:

1. © Sander Coers, Blue Mood (Al Mar) (2022)

2. © Rehab Eldalil, The Longing of the Stranger Whose Path Has Been Broken (شوق الغريب للي تقطّع سبيله)  (2021)

3. © Thero Makepe, We Didn’t Choose to Be Born Here (2022)

4. © Cristóbal Ascencio, Las flores mueren dos veces (2022)

5. © Shwe Wutt Hmon, I Do Miss Hospital Visit (2020-2023).