Petition to reconsider the results of The Foam Paul Huf Award 2017
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Dear Foam team and distinguished juries of The Foam Paul Huf Award,
We are addressing this open letter to you with a kind but persistent demand to reconsider the results of The Foam Paul Huf Award of this year taking into consideration the harm it brings to the fight with stereotypical divisions that still survive in the minds of many Western European citizens.
This year The Foam Paul Huf Award, an internationally acclaimed photography prize given to photographers under the age of 35 from across the world, was granted to Romain Mader (1988, Switzerland) for his series Ekaterina. He received a prize of €20.000 and an exhibition in Foam. On The Foam Paul Huf Award official site the series was described as “a narrative in which he seeks a bride in the imaginary city of Ekaterina” and its author was praised as “an artist of remarkable sensibility and subtlety… destined to be a notable voice in contemporary photography".
The representatives of Eastern European artistic community and ordinary citizens do not share the opinion of the Paul Huf Award Jury. We consider the series to be using senseless humor and disrespectful naivety as its main artistic tool which appears only to reproduce and spread offensive stereotypes, and, as a matter of fact, to promote sex tourism, sexism, and misogyny.
Certainly, being a free artist Romain Mader can create any project he wants and, either purposefully or not, express any position that would reflect his subjective view on any region of the world, any gender or any nationality. However, being people with an active civil position, we express a deep concern that such an acclaimed and respected institution in the field of photography as Foam gives its platform for the exposure, and thus – for a wider recognition at the institutional level, of a project which makes use of such manipulations as objectification (seen from the very name of the series), ignorant generalisation (substituting pictures from Ukraine with those taken in another country, namely Belarus) and devaluing (disregarding of economic and political premises of the “funny” phenomena).
In fact, we find Romain Mader’s substitution of the images taken in one country with those from another to reveal a certain disrespect to geopolitical space of the post-soviet block. We clearly understand that his series was supposed to be presenting “a fictional story” and look humorous but keeping in mind already existing confusion persistent among some of the EU citizens who only start to discover our region, Mader’s approach seems to be only making this process worse. The project creates an image of homogeneous post-soviet space, whereas today it is a region with different independent countries having their distinctive cultural identities. Mader totally ignores this fact starting the series with a hideous and misogynistic stereotype of Ukrainian women and then presenting the whole region as one by adding images of "whatever looks soviet" to his eyes.
Moreover, we would also like to draw the attention of the distinguished juries of The Foam Paul Huf Award to the fact that we find it absolutely unethical and thus unacceptable to use senseless humour and disrespectful naivety shown in relation to women, regardless of their nationality, and to publicly financially and institutionally support this sexist humour – instead of (in case of Mader’s series) expressing empathy to a country in war which Ukraine is at the moment.
Petition was originally signed by
Olga Bubich, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Journalism, Belarusian State University, Minsk (Belarus), Art-critic, photographer, co-editor of “Bleek Magazine”, Moscow (Russia)
Ksenia Yurkova, Artist/ photographer, (Russia/ Finland)
Sviatlana Kashuba, independent curator (Belarus / France)
Ekaterina Anokhina, Artist/photographer (Russia)
Raisa Mikhaylova, Photographer, co-editor of “Bleek Magazine”, Moscow (Russia)
Alya Bakryv, Independent journalist (Ukraine/Estonia)
Nastassia Chralovic, photographer (Belarus)
Boris Eldagsen, Artist (Germany)
Vitali Shchutski, Ph.D student at the University Paris 8 (France)
Alexandra Soldatova, Artist/photographer (Belarus)
Kateryna Mariukhina, Ph.D student at Université Sorbonne Paris Cité (Ukraine)
Yuliya Shablovskaya, Photographer and journalist (Belarus)
Anastasia Tailakova, Photographer (Russia)
Timo Tuhkanen, Composer, Artist, Doctoral candidate at the University of Leeds (Finland/UK/Italy)
Camille Merlen, PhD Candidate at the University of Kent (UK/Russia/the Netherlands)
Andres Donadio, Visual Artist (Colombia)
Egor Rogalev, artist (Saint Petersburg/ Moscow/Russia)
Varvara Kuzmina, Artist/photographer (Russia, Vladimir)
Margo Ovcharenko, Artist (Russia/US)
Ikuru Kuwajima, Photographer, Translator (Russia/Japan)
Alina Sanduliak, Art historian, photography researcher, curator (Ukraine)
Sergey Novikov, Photographer, Colta.ru picture editor (Russia)
Nadya Sheremetova, Curator, photography researcher, editor-in-chief F.Magazine, FotoDepartament (Russia)
Tanya Nagel-Chernova, Artist (Minsk, Belarus)
Yura Kolomiets, Artist (Kiev,Ukraine)
Maxim Vitenchuk, Artist/photographer (Kiev,Ukraine)
Kate Smuraga, Photographer, art historian (Vitebsk, Belarus)
Liza Premiyak, Associate Editor of The Calvert Journal (UK)
Martin Breindl, Media artist, curator FLUSS - NÖ Initiative für Foto- und Medienkunst (Austria)
Evgeny Litvinov, Artist/photographer (Russia)
Masha Svyatogor, Photographer (Belarus)
Alexander Vasukovich, Photographer (Belarus)
Jura Shust, Artist (Belarus)
Alex Kiyaschenko, Photographer (Ukraine)
Nastya Babenko, Filmmaker (Ukraine)
Jean-Christophe Meunier, Filmmaker (France)
Kseniia Marchenko, Journalist (Ukraine)
Maxim Yanovskiy, Photographer (Ukraine)
Evgeny Molodtsov, Artist/photographer (Russia)
Kateryna Korolevtseva, Artist, Illustrator (Ukraine)
Valus Sonov, Photobookshow.co.uk coordinator (Lithuania/UK)
Mariya Pavlenko, Artist, designer (Ukraine /Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany)
Oksana Tsymbaliuk, Photographer (Ukraine/Poland)
Halyna Budivska, Journalist (Ukraine)
Alla Onopchenko, Architect (Ukraine/ MFA Umea University, Sweden)
Gregory Garecki, Photographer (Washington, DC, USA)
Bohdana Smyrnova, Filmmaker (Brooklyn, NY)
Olena Mudrak, Journalist (Ukraine)
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