The toxic underside of the fast-paced culture, two exhibitions during Getxophoto 2023 - EU・ジャパンフェスト日本委員会

The toxic underside of the fast-paced culture, two exhibitions during Getxophoto 2023

Jokin Aspuru |Director, Begihandi Kultur Elkartea

Getxophoto International Image Festival has been held in Getxo (Basque Country, Spain) for 17 years. The Festival brings to the city different proposals from visual artists from all over the world, establishing a contemporary conversation on the proposed theme each year. It is conceived as a platform from which contemporary challenges are addressed with the aim of creating spaces for reflection and establishing a collective conversation.

Getxophoto is characterized by the radical defence of public space (physical and online) as a meeting place, a place of mutual recognition and a field for experimentation, play and celebration in the face of its homogenization and privatization. For this reason, most of its programme is made up of open-air installations, highlighting, on the one hand, the link between the image and the environment and, on the other, generating a more horizontal and participatory relationship with the public.

In its 17 years of existence, more than 270 renowned international authors have participated, many of them acclaimed by critic. The Festival, mostly free, is configured as a meeting point and a local and international platform and it has created a network of institutions, artists and visitors who exchange experiences and knowledge.

The 17th edition of Getxophoto International Image Festival took place from 1 to 25 June. Under the guidance of its new curator, the Bilbao-born María Ptqk (PhD in Artistic Research from the Basque University UPV-EHU) and under the idea and concept of PAUSE!, the Festival the Festival has made a vindication of pause as a gesture of rebellion and resistance in the face of this fast-paced world. For that, 23 artists from countries such as Switzerland, Japan, Morocco, Ecuador, Mexico, Argentina, United Kingdom, Brazil, Spain or Greece has shown their work at exhibitions and installations (most of them outdoors) in the city.

As far as the Japanese participation is concerned, Getxophoto has had the privilege of having two great photographers such as Mr. Photographerhal with his project Flesh Love All and Mr. Mitsutoshi Hanaga with his project Collective of Monks Praying to Kill Owners of Corporation Responsible for Environmental Pollutions.

M. Hanaga`s installation 4 ©︎ Getxophoto 2023 : Ainhoa Resano


One of the main hallmarks of the Festival is its firm defence of public space as a place for meeting, enjoyment and reflection. Due to this fact, several exhibitions occupy the public space. The series by Photographerhal and Mitsutoshi Hanaga have been exhibited in one of the most special locations of Getxophoto: Ereaga beach. A unique space close to the city centre that during the whole month of June becomes one of the most visited open-air venues. Due to the start of the summer, this is one of the exhibition spaces with the greatest visibility for both Festival visitors and the media due to its media impact (see press clipping).

Flesh Love All by Photographerhal was exhibited in a large container structure (dimensions were 5.6m high x 4.1m wide) designed, produced and installed in front of the sea. The Festival framed his haunting series of portraits about the anxiety for the perfect life right in front of the large manor houses by the sea in Getxo, allowing Photographerhal’s photographs to dialogue with the social environment.

Photographerhal`s installation 1 ©︎ Getxophoto 2023 : Ainhoa Resano


It should be noted that two newspapers of worldwide relevance, El País (Spain) and The Guardian (UK) echoed this exhibition. With regard to visitors, we estimate that at least 40,000 people have passed through Ereaga beach to enjoy this very special installation.

Collective of Monks Praying to Kill Owners of Corporation Responsible for Environmental Pollutions by Mitsutoshi Hanaga was exhibited in three prism-shaped structures made of mechanotubes of 2.25m each and like Photographerhal’s, the images were installed in front of the beach. As mentioned above, this work was strategically installed in front of an industrial area of the Bilbao estuary, as Mitsutoshi Hanaga’s work, even though it dates back several decades and is about Japan, can make us reflect on the toxic waste and emissions of contemporary industry in our society. For Getxophoto to be able to exhibit this work, thanks to the collaboration of Aoyama I Meguro Gallery, not only adds to the artistic quality of the event but also serves to convey to the public the importance of a critical reading of the images and the role of the mediation of the works with the public (family members, associations, etc.).

As in the case of Photographerhal’s photographs, the photographs and the story behind Mr. Hanaga’s series caused a lot of media interest. Proof of this are the various captures of his appearance in national and international press articles, as well as television and social media posts.

Photographerhal`s installation 5 ©︎ Getxophoto 2023 / Ainhoa Resano

As for the future of the Festival, we are currently preparing the next edition for June 2024. In the coming years, Getxophoto will continue to inhabit the public space through exhibitions and installations, an international call that opens the doors to artists from all over the world, conversations with prominent professionals who come to Getxo and who position the Festival on the European circuit, collaborations with cultural agents and institutions that strengthen the cultural ecosystem or different activities within the participatory programme that bring artistic proposals closer to the public.

We look forward to seeing you in 2024!