“The body is an archive. It remembers everything – even the things that the head forgets.” Visual artist-performers Heather Agyepong (UK) and John Yuyi (TW, 1991) explore their own bodies as a vessel for personal and collective (hi)stories. Their work begs the question of how photography can be, and has been, used to perform a gendered and racialised persona. Through performance and self-portraiture, the artists unearth new ways to engage the body as both a target and an instrument of visual activism. Together with Hinde Haest, curator of Foam Talent Digital 2021, the artists go into conversation about their respective processes and the challenges they face.
Heather Agyepong uses lens-based practices and performance to explore collective wellbeing, activism, the African diaspora and the archive. The lead character of one of Agyepong’s recent projects ‘Wish You Were Here’ is the celebrated African-American vaudeville performer Aida Overton Walker. She was known as the Queen of the Cake Walk, a dance craze that swept the United States and Europe in the early 1900s. By personifying the figure of Overton Walker, Heather Agyepong reimagined her story as one of (black, female) agency instead of oppression.
The work of Yuyi John explores her own body as a malleable object and a product of consumer culture. Through social media, stickers and other lowbrow means of mass-communication she seeks experimental new forms to ‘brand’ her own feminity. With this, John formulates a newfound understanding of what individuality means in the context of millennial culture and the both liberating and oppressive social media landscape. The artist constructs a raw, unapologetic, often jarring and seemingly nonsensical interpretation of her own mediated identity.
Together, Foam and Paris Photo present a brand-new season of the podcast series Foam Talks: Talent Edition. This series presents eight talented image-makers from both the fair's Curiosa Sector and Foam Talent 2021. Each of the episodes welcomes two photographers, one of each organisations' talent programme. Brought together by a common theme and approach, the photographers speak about their projects and motivations, as well as the challenges they encounter.
Not to miss the works of the artists, please visit the digital exhibition at Talent.foam.org and the work at the Curiosa sector of Paris Photo.
Concept: Amelie Schüle & Hinde Heast
Production: Nordin Janssen
Mastering & Mixing: Andersen Audio Productions