Profound Reverberations

The RAY Triennial of Photography takes place every three years in the Frankfurt and Rhine-Main regions of Germany to celebrate the power of the camera. Four editions have taken place since the international art festival was established in 2010, with themes ranging from Ideologies (2021) to Extreme. Nomads (2018). This year’s programme revolves around the idea of Echoes. Identity. It brings together artists with diverse approaches through their desire to depict the challenges and tensions of self-perception and human interaction. Stellar projects span the past, present, and future, from the intimate and personal to the collective. By capturing these diverse moments and phenomena, they create a reverberating echo for us all to hear. Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, Joy Gregory, Jürgen Klauke, Dinu Li and Inuuteq Storch take the spotlight, bringing their expertise from across the globe in order to reflect on the making and breaking of identity.

Mónica Alcázar-Duarte (b. 1977) does just that in her series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain. The Mexican-British visual artist was shortlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2021 with the series Second Nature, an ongoing project examining how algorithms maintain biased thinking. Today, the image-maker’s most recent project focuses on western society’s obsession with speed, expansion and resource accumulation. It looks at Indigenous knowledge systems to raise the critical questions: where does knowledge lie? Who and what is classified? Evocative self-portraits show the artist among the dying trees of Derbyshire – home of the Industrial Revolution – in the style of 18th Century Casta paintings. This is a genre that developed in Mexico during Spanish colonial rule as an illustration of racial social hierarchies. Alcázar-Duarte told Aesthetica that she learned Maya in order to uncover notions that don’t exist in English and Spanish. She states: “These are the ideas that attract me the most; they recognise nature not as a resource, or a thing to be controlled and tamed, but as a living being that moves, breathes and is in constant change.”

Self-portraiture is a thread that connects us to the work of Joy Gregory (b. 1959), who presents the nine-part Autoportrait (1989-1990) series at RAY Triennial. The first-ever Autograph commission explored concepts of beauty, femininity and politics through monochromatic images. One shot shows a side profile of the back of her head, highlighting natural hair tied in a ponytail. She peeks out of the bottom of another still so we only see her eyes – which look right back at us. Visitors will see this collection and the Objects of Beauty series (1992–1995) in what is the first display of the photographers work in Germany. Another lens-based practitioner making their debut in the country is Inuuteq Storch’s (b. 1989), who is represented in the Danish pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year. On display is Keepers of the Ocean (2022), a collection of images focused on everyday life in his native rural Greenland. These are a point of contrast with Flesh (2019), which was shot in New York City and reveals the alienation and aspirations of youth.

Identity is a rich and multifaceted topic that every artist approaches differently. This is because they all draw upon different reference points, from personal background to national history. Alcázar-Duarte takes the latter road by excavating the knowledge overwritten by colonialism and bringing these concepts to light in the modern day. Despite their distinctive styles, Gregory and Storch are connected by themes that begin with a part of themselves. Nevertheless, their personal starting points still speak to important wider conversations, from the topic of Eurocentric beauty standards to our relationships to different geographic locations. These works go far beyond themselves, calling to us like echoes that beckon us to hear more.

Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, Ray Echoes Identity | Until 1 September

Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Mónica Alcázar-Duarte Ixchel – Mayan Moon and Birth Deity, 2023 From the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain, 2021–2024 © Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, 2024.
  2. Inuuteq Storch From the series Keepers of the Ocean, 2022/2024 © Inuuteq Storch, 2024.
  3. Mónica Alcázar-Duarte Ixchel – Mayan Moon and Birth Deity, 2023 From the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain, 2021–2024 © Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, 2024.
  4. Mónica Alcázar-Duarte The Coming Storm! I, 2021 From the series Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain, 2021–2024 © Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, 2024.