Lara Baladi in Dear Truth at Hasselblad Foundation

From the series ABC: A Lesson In History Dimensions and materials variable. Lara Baladi, 2020.
ACT at MIT

Dear Truth: Documentary Strategies in Contemporary Photography is a new exhibition at the Hasselblad Foundation. ACT lecturer Lara Baladi is one of the participating artists along with Laia Abril, Mathieu Asselin, Kerstin Hamilton, Karlsson Rixon, Bouchra Khalili, Frida Orupabo, Trevor Paglen and Taryn Simon.

About the Exhibition from the Hasselblad Foundation:

The times we live in have been characterized as a period of post-truth – one in which fact-based truths are often replaced by so-called alternative facts. Emotions and personal beliefs are used to sway public opinion at the expense of science-based arguments.

In photography, objectivity and truth have been debated since the 1980s, and the once widespread idea of photography as a neutral representation has been discredited. Portraying other people’s lives is challenging and there is the constant risk of exoticisation and exploitation. Documentary photography has therefore long been subject to criticism, but in the last twenty years, the field has undergone a change. Today, photo-based artists are approaching social issues with new strategies and an awareness of their own role in forming narratives.

This exhibition explores how nine contemporary artists approach ideas of truth, facts, and objectivity, and how they – guided by ethical reflections – make urgent matters visible. Their work portrays some of the most challenging issues of our time: human rights, the environment, democracy, migration, technology, and violence. The projects are rooted in social realities – but they do not attempt to represent reality. The artists step into the world, turn to archives, and nuance established views. Here, the truth plays a central part – not as an authoritarian or neutral vision, but as a starting point for socially engaged contemporary art.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue in newspaper format, distributed both digitally and in print.

About Baladi’s artwork in the Dear Truth Exhibition:

Part of larger series Lara Baladi describes as “poetic politics,”this new work shown in Dear Truth is an ABC Primer which offers artistic perspectives on the core concepts inherent to revolting. This Arabic alphabet of revolution, titled ABC: A Lesson in History is “inspired by 1950s propagandist educational books.”

All 28 letters from the Arabic alphabet are printed on watercolour paper using the traditional cyanotype photographic process and paired together with one word and one icon selected from various revolutions and/or protests across history.

These cyanotype prints, reminiscent of the blueprints of engineering drawings, inscribes the ABC as the core language—and structure—to engineer a revolution.”

In January 2011, Baladi was one of the hundreds of thousands of people across Egypt who took to the streets in protest against President Hosni Mubarak. “In the context of Tahrir Square, in a country where photography had been banned in most public spaces until 2011; where if you were photographing you were assumed to be a spy; where (anti-camera) propaganda helped generate paranoia, fear, and mistrust between people… literally overnight, the camera became one of the most efficient ways to counter the state and its security apparatus.” Her work is inspired by images of political uprisings, social movements and protests. Online activism, and how the camera works as a tool to confront dominant governments, are recurrent themes.