Oceans and Campfires: Allan Sekula and Bruno Serralongue

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Churn, From the series Ship of Fools, 1999 - 2010 Chromogenic Print 48 X 52 Inches © Courtesy of the artist, Christopher Grimes Gallery, Santa Monica and Galerie Michel Rein, Paris
Feu de machines, New Fabris, Châtellerault, jeudi 30 juillet 2009, From the series New Fabris, Châtellerault, 2009, 2009 46 X 61 Inches © Courtesy of the artist and Air de Paris, Paris
Oceans and Campfires: Allan Sekula and Bruno Serralongue
Curated by: Hou Hanru

800 Chestnut St.
San Francisco, CA 94133
December 1st, 2011 - February 18th, 2012
Opening: November 30th, 2011 5:30 PM - 7:30 PM

Financial District/Wharf
Tue 11-7; Wed-Sat 11-6
San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI)
documentary, photo, film, Social/Political, photography, mixed-media, installation, video-art, conceptual, figurative


Oceans and Campfires: Allan Sekula and Bruno Serralongue is a new exhibition in SFAI's Walter and McBean Galleries featuring two of the most innovative figures in the field of contemporary documentary photography and video. Gallery hours are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 11 am – 6 pm. (The gallery will be closed December 23, 2011 – January 2, 2012.)

Photography and video documentaries have played a significant role in the evolution of global contemporary art, opening a new dimension of artists’ engagements with social and political changes, and producing an aesthetic genre highly relevant to our age of media and communication. Differing from traditional journalistic photography and films, these works negotiate the moving boundaries between reality and imagination, reportage and critique. They also provide a new space in which contemporary art can reconnect with real life, serving as a site of resistance to the hegemony of established powers. At a time when “Occupy Wall Street!” has become a rallying cry against the domination of neoliberal capitalism, this exhibition of Allan Sekula and Bruno Serralongue is especially relevant.

Allan Sekula is a Los Angeles-based photographer, writer, and filmmaker who, for the last three decades, has been traveling around the world to document the impacts of globalization on the everyday life of people and social systems. His critical examination has focused on the maritime economy, namely intercontinental transportations. In his long-term engagement with this adventure, he has developed interrelated exhibitions, books, and films such as Fish Story,Lottery of the SeaShip of Fools, and The Forgotten Space. These works reveal the complexity, contradictions, and violence of this key sector of global capitalism and help voice the muffled claims of those who risk their lives laboring in the system.

Parisian photographer Bruno Serralongue has developed a distinctive body of work that questions the truth of photographic representation and how images are produced, disseminated, and circulated in contemporary contexts. He pursues traces of media events that marked key moments in regions facing geopolitical changes: global economic and social forums; celebrations of new independent nations such as Kosovo and South Sudan in the aftermaths of civil wars; strikes and labor conflicts. Instead of seeking spectacular images of these events in the voyeuristic and dramatic style of paparazzi, Serralongue chooses to catch angles excluded from the mainstream media’s framings of “reality,” and surmounts considerable difficulties to cover events in his independent manner. Through images such as campfires in the campsite of striking workers at the New Fabris factory in Châtellerault, France, Serralongue symbolizes rage and determination in the face of exploitation and oppression.

This show, curated by Hou Hanru, is part of the Global Figures component of SFAI’sExhibitions and Public Programs structure, designed to bring some of the most remarkable actors in the current global art scene to West Coast audiences.

SFAI's exhibitions and public programs are supported in part by the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund with generous support for Bruno Serralongue provided by étant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art.