Brighton Photo Biennial – Can Someone Tell Me How It Works?

This week, I’m visiting the Brighton Photo Biennial and (running alongside it) the Brighton Photo Fringe.

Now, I’m an old hand at visiting exhibitions so I know how this works. Well, the leaflet I was given at a Brighton Photo Fringe information stall isn’t a guide to exhibitions, it’s only a guide to venues and doesn’t include any details about exhibitions. So that’s a useless place to start; why not (and this isn’t rocket science) put the two together? Maybe use the A3 space taken up in the venue guide by one single, rather dull image to list all the exhibitions? Then I could find out what’s on.

So – next step is the Brighton Photo Fringe website. Of course, the guide to venues doesn’t actually have the website’s address on it, but I can use Google. And here, everything looks rosy. Only one slight problem; the website shows a sample image fro each exhibition, it lists all the venues, and it catalogues all the artists. It doesn’t have any ‘search by date’ option though, and not all the events are on all the time. Some are just for one weekend, sometime between 3rd October and 16th November. So to find out if I can visit things tomorrow, I’ve got to check every one of about 60 events. I don’t think I’ll bother.

So – if I can’t find out about the Fringe, I’ll try the Brighton Photo Biennial website. It starts with a pointless splash page, with the awful words ‘enter site’. But … I’ve already typed your address into my browser, surely that should be enough to let me look at your website? But no.

So, what am I going to find inside? You guessed it – a website with architecture even more rotten than the Fringe site. Firstly, where do you reckon the Brighton Photo Biennial takes place? Well, you’re wrong. Two exhibitions are in Brighton, the others are in Battle, Bexhill on Sea, Chichester, Portsmouth and Winchester. 

And it gets harder than that. Each exhibition has been broken down into three elements; exhibition, artists, and venue. So if you choose Don McCullin from the ‘artists’ page; you then have to click another link to find which exhibition he’s actually in; and another link to find which venue the exhibition’s in (and of course, which town it’s in!). If you’re lucky, you’ve found an exhibition in the town you’re visiting and the venue page will tell you where the venue is and when it’s open. Don’t count on it, though.

Brighton Photo Biennial is organised by ‘Julian Stallabrass and a series of scholars’. Your Festival may well ‘illumine through an examination of the media the conditions of conflict, imperialism and expropriation, historically and into the present’ and ‘elicit intimations of the collective and individual memory of such images, their forgetting and revision, and their rebirth at times of crisis and war’ but that’s doesn’t mean anything* if people can’t actually find out how to visit the thing. 

And finally, a word to Arts Council England and Brighton and Hove City Council, both sponsoring the event. Could you, perhaps, insist that events you give money to make it a bit easier to find out what’s going on and encourage visitors? Thank you.

*Read it carefully, and it really doesn’t mean anything anyway – it’s just a vain attempt to make taking snaps sound clever.

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2 thoughts on “Brighton Photo Biennial – Can Someone Tell Me How It Works?

  1. Dan, I had exactly the same problem in Liverpool, at their Biennial! From Lime Street station I headed straight for the Biennial Visitor Centre (the foyer of an art deco cinema almost opposite) and picked up a map. Great! The catalogue, however was 25 quid! There was no simple booklet a la Artists Open Houses that listed artists, dates and venue with a little piccy to give you an idea of what’s to be expected. Undaunted I headed for FACT (nice cafe, free wifi and galleries). The soup of the day was pea and ham, so went without. The art was all video stuff which left me cold. Wandered down the road to the Open Eye – closed on Mondays! Down to the Bluecoat, where there was some proper art, but there the trail ended. It was a long walk to the next venue… Discovered later I’d walked right past the Yoko Ono piece – but it was only a few stepladders in a old church…

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