Oliver Frank Chanarin: A Perfect Sentence
Oliver Frank Chanarin's practice has long pushed against the edges of the photographic medium to interrogate dynamics of power and visibility, and challenge the ethics of documentary photography. Following the dissolution of the twenty-year creative partnership Broomberg & Chanarin, the artist's first solo project returns to an origin point: using the camera and the photographic encounter to speak towards, penetrate, and critique our lived experience. Drawing as much from August Sander as W. G. Sebald, Chanarin's photographic wanderings and auto-fictional experiments engage with the artist's subjectivity while querying the slippery terrain of documentary photography.
Chanarin often finds himself on the margins — from suburban fetish clubs to accident-faking ambulance chasers, or from amateur dramatics groups in church halls to gender activists protesting in the streets. In a country fragmented by political polarisation, pandemic isolation and the weaponisation of identity politics, Chanarin attempts to reconcile the eccentricity of Britishness with the pressing need for new forms of representation.
Like Chanarin's previous projects, A Perfect Sentence crisscrosses the line between discipline and chance: organised collaborative photoshoots with institutional partners give way to chance encounters with strangers and friends, missteps and wilful attempts at getting lost in the world, chaos in the darkroom, and self-critical texts. Chanarin refuses the authority of a final image, often choosing to present in-progress darkroom prints that show the processes of correction, redaction and selection, the images refusing to resolve themselves. The Sisyphean and futile task of distilling a country onto the page becomes grist for the mill as Chanarin's candid images — sometimes uncomfortable and disquieting, elsewhere bucolically British — accrue and coagulate, like thick piled slabs of buttered toast.
Commissioned and produced by Forma in collaboration with eight UK organisations, A Perfect Sentence culminates in a series of regional exhibitions, in which the series is presented in different iterations: from framed works continuously mounted and unmounted from the gallery walls by a robotic arm trained to respond to patterns of audience attention, to a suite of screenprints, to outdoor poster exhibitions.