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Margaret Salmon
28.4. – 18.6.2023

Margaret Salmon, Monument, Ausstellungsansicht, Secession 2023, Foto: Iris Ranzinger

Margaret Salmon creates films, photographs, and objects that weave together poetry and non-fiction. Often focusing on individuals in their everyday activities, her work captures the minutiae of daily life and infuses them with gentle grandeur, touching upon universal human themes.


In her exhibition Monument, Salmon presents two new complementary film installations that explore questions of masculinity. The 35mm film projection Boy (winter) (2022) portrays various children in Glasgow in stages of physical and psychological development, from infant to teenager; the second work, Study for a Film About Monuments (2023), displayed as an installation with monitors, originally shot on 35mm film, focuses on grownup men in a series of silent films, including one about a First-World-War memorial in Penpont, Scotland. These recent studies are staged on a TV tower; a fifth monitor holds an excerpt from a 16mm color film about the documentary photographer Jean Mohr and the documentary filmmaker Simone Turettini at their home in Geneva:


“I went to meet, interview and film Jean Mohr in winter 2018 supported in part by Pavilion, Leeds. I’d long been interested in his work with John Berger, in particular the seminal books A Seventh Man and A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor (which Jean Mohr is signing in the excerpt). When I arrived I met his lifelong partner, Simone Turettini (Mohr), and noted the atmosphere of creativity and care present within their home. Mohr’s health was declining at the time, but we all shared a few days of conversation and time together. I’m interested in photographs, in photographic techniques and social and cultural meanings within representational work. In sharing this excerpt from my time with Simone and Jean, I’m looking to complicate hierarchies of isolated authorship and masculine authority, whilst celebrating a creative, intelligent coupling of strong individuals.”


In calm and static black-and-white shots composed in a non-narrative sequential structure, Boy (winter) seeks to describe a different kind of image that resists both the prevailing idea of masculinity and the regime of the gaze and visual representation bound up with it. The works reflect a line of research that has long defined the artist’s feminist practice: the study of gendered dynamics experienced in everyday life and expressed through the body and culture.


Salmon records the quotidian in an effort to uncover the interpersonal, social, and political meanings implicit in it. All performers represent themselves. We see intimate and tender moments of self-expression and self-forgetfulness in which they reveal their emotions and vulnerability. Rather than choreographing the individual scenes in detail, the artist developed them in an extended process of growing familiarity, observation, and creative collaboration with the subjects. This deliberately configured relationship between camera and motif, which is grounded in profound empathy for the protagonists and allows them the room to defy the camera’s voyeuristic gaze, is essential to Salmon’s realistic approach. The artist’s closeness to her subjects, she says, is tied to a decidedly political stance:


“… it’s not about me forcing my gaze upon someone, it’s about an approach where I’m inviting someone to collaborate with me and often I’m really touched and inspired by how open and interested people are in being part of that process. It’s fairly complicated these days with so much surveillance footage, so many images being ‘stolen.’ It’s all part of an ongoing ethical question around documentary work; what does it mean to film someone, and is the exchange fair or is it exploitative?”


The display also includes a series of small “monuments” made of found and personal objects, as well as collaged photographs based on motifs that play with concepts of representation and expand traditional notions of masculinity. In these traditional wet prints, Salmon frequently employs experimental darkroom techniques such as multiple exposures and solarization. Often gleaned from the domestic sphere (her son’s outgrown football boots, delivery packaging bound for recycling, broken plates from her kitchen, bits of offcut wood from Secession’s carpenters …), these material observations, or thought objects, attest to Salmon’s keen eye for the poetic qualities of seemingly peripheral things.


Margaret Salmon was born in Suffern, N.Y., in 1975 and lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2006, she won the inaugural Mara Art Prize for Women. Her work was showcased at the Venice Biennale in 2007, at the first Berlin Biennale in 2010, and at the British Art Show 9 in 2021–22, as well as in solo exhibitions, including at Tramway, Glasgow; the Witte de With, Rotterdam; and the Whitechapel Gallery, London.


Published in conjunction with the exhibition, Margaret Salmon’s Cinematographa. Introduction to Analogue Filmmaking was conceived as a textbook and manual on the use of analog cameras. It combines detailed photographic instructions for Super-8, 16mm, and 35mm cameras with writings by nine women filmmakers—Peggy Ahwesh, Betzy Bromberg, Rose Lowder, Babette Mangolte, Rhea Storr, Deborah Stratman, Alia Syed, Malena Szlam, and Salmon herself—who agreed to share their answers to a catalogue of questions about their use of technology, method, and practical experiences. The publication is expected to be released in early June.


Digital Publication

Margaret Salmon

Margaret Salmon. Cinematographa, photo: Iris Ranzinger

Margaret Salmon

geboren 1975 in Suffern, New York, lebt und arbeitet in Glasgow, Schottland.

Programmiert vom Vorstand der Secession

Kuratiert von
Annette Südbeck

Vereinigung bildender Künstler*innen Wiener Secession
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1010 Vienna
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