Almost two months ago, i wrote a couple of measly posts (Arnold Odermatt, policeman photographer and Artissima - Valerio Carrubba) about the 19th edition of Artissima, the contemporary art fair that takes place in Turin each year in November. I've finally decided to catch up with my reports from the fair.

While reading articles in the local press, i learnt that Artisima broke all its records of affluence this year. That doesn't surprise me. A few years ago, Turin decided to squeeze all its major cultural events into the same November week. So the art fair was accompanied by various openings in the city and by an 'off' fair, nothing unusual here. But that same week also saw the commissions It's Not The End Of The World displayed in various museums for a few days, a digital art festival, a festival of electronic music, a photo fair, an exhibition dedicated to 'emerging art'', etc. A fantastic strategy to attract tourists. A lame idea for art-loving people who live in this city.

Artissima is nevertheless my favourite art fair in Europe. First of all because of the quality of the galleries selected and the works they show. Then there's the press team which -unlike Art Brussels and Frieze- doesn't require bloggers to go through a Stasi-style cross-examination process in order to be granted a press pass (sans catalogue, access to photo sets nor fabric bag obviously.) In Turin, i got the pass, the catalogues, the bright pink fabric bag (as worn by my little colleague over here.) The other reason why i'd hate to miss an edition of Artissima is that i've always found that people in Turin genuinely cared about contemporary art. They have the appetite and the taste for it. I'm convinced that even the security guys whom i see each year sneering and guffawing openly from one gallery booth to another find something that touches them at the end of their tour.

As a brief intro (which will actually be the third 'brief intro'), here's a quick copy/paste of the photographic works that i found most interesting at Artissima. Some of them are purely photographic works. But because i didn't see as many stunning photos as usual this year, i'm adding images that document performances and interventions. Starting with...

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Ragnar Kjartansson. Scandinavian Pain (twilight), 2006-12. i8 Gallery

The 11 metre long, pink neon sign was first erected on the roof of an abandoned barn in a region of Norway made famous by Edvard Munch. Kjartansson lived there for a week, looking dejected and playing the guitar for days, many of which not a single human visitor came.

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Andrea Galvani, A few invisible sculptures #1

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Eva Frapiccini, Untitled (from the series Under the Rough) (2012) Courtesy of Alberto Peola, Torino

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Tobias Zielony, Horseman, 2009. Gallery Lia Rumma

Naufus Ramírez Figueroa was one of the 3 winners of the Premio Illy for young artists.

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Naufus Ramírez Figueroa, Beber y leer el arcoiris

Karen Knorr's series of large-scale photos star wildlife animals inhabiting the elegant salons of famous cultural institutions and castles.

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Karen Knorr, Fables (Musée de la chasse), 2005 - 2007

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Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson, Untitled, 2000-2006

Ondrej Pribyl's photos are made using the daguerreotype process, the photographic technique patented by Louis Daguerre in 1839.

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Ondrej Pribyl, Untitled

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Ballen Roger, Appearances

Edgar Leciejewski: a name to add to the already long list of artists working with blow-ups of "Google Street View".

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Edgar Leciejewski, 302 West 22nd Street

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Edgar Leciejewski, 146 East 77th Street

Per-Oskar Leu's "The English: Are they human?" site-specific installation showed two Italian Mille Miglia parka. Their integrated goggles and 'built for speed' appearance has made these jackets a sought-after garment among football fans with inclinations towards fighting and luxury apparel. Since the early 1980's groups of British 'risk supporters' have embraced a dress code of upmarket, mainly French and Italian sportswear brands, a look which has in turn been adapted by fans in Europe following an increase in 'The English Disease' of football hooliganism. Simultaneously, Leu conjures up imagery from other cross-cultural phenomena equally fixated upon the cult of youthful aggression; namely the Italian Futurist movement and its English offshoot the Vorticist group, founded in 1909 and 1913 respectively.

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Per-Oskar Leu, The English: Are They Human?

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Robin Rhode, Slalom Triptych. At Tucci Russo, 2012

In 1999, Nedko Solakov wrote fourteen short messages and narratives on the wings of six of Luxair's Boeing 737's. Each of them was visible only from the window seats.

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Nedko Solakov, On the Wing (texts on the wings of 6 Boeing 737...), 2001. At Galleria Continua

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Roni Horn, This is Me, This is You (GROUP II), 1998-2000. At i8 Gallery

In case you were wondering what the fair looked like:

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Photo: Enrico Frignani

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Photo: Enrico Frignani

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Photo: Enrico Frignani

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Photo: Enrico Frignani

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One last reason why i love Artissima:

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Previously: Arnold Odermatt, policeman photographer and Artissima - Valerio Carrubba.

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I wasn't particularly dazzled by the press pictures of the exhibition Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s and i thought i'd visit it on a day i'd be really really bored. Which you're never supposed to be in London. Still, last Sunday i was at the Barbican, attempting to recover from the heart attack i had when i saw the endless queue to experience Random International's Rain Room and took the lift to see the photo show. I found that the press pictures didn't do it justice. Everything Was Moving is a magnificent, albeit slightly exhausting, show. The exhibition shows the work of photographers who lived and worked in countries as different from each other as Ukraine under Soviet control and Apartheid South Africa, Maoist China and Vietnam attacked by American soldiers. Plenty of politics, social issues and conflicts to cover!

I might not have (or rather 'take') the time to cover the whole exhibition but one of the rooms that impressed me the most was dedicated to the work of Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu. His most famous series is "Nagasaki 11:02". Fifteen years after the horrific atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Shomei Tomatsu was commissioned by the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs to document the effects of the A-bomb on the city of Nagasaki and on its inhabitants.

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Shomei Tomatsu, A Bottle that Was Melted by Heat Wave and Fires (from the series Nagasaki 11:02) Nagasaki, 1961

The series is named after the photo of a watch that was dug up 0.7km from the epicenter of the explosion and which stopped at the exact moment the bomb fell: 11:02 a.m on the 9th of August 1945.

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A Wristwatch Dug up approximately 0.7 km from the Epicenter of the Explosion. Nagasaki, 1961

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Steel Helmet with Skull Bone Fused by Atomic Bomb, Nagasaki 1963

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Christian with Keloidal Scars (from the series Nagasaki 11:02) Nagasaki, 1961

Another of his most admired series is Chewing Gum and Chocolate which exposes the influences of the US occupying forces and of American military and popular culture on Japanese society.

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Shomei Tomatsu, Prostitute, Nagoya, 1958

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Untitled, from the series Chewing Gum and Chocolates, Yokosuka, 1959

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Untitled, from the series Chewing Gum & Chocolate, 1966.

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Untitled, from the series Chewing Gum and Chocolate, 1967 (Shomei Tomatsu)

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Shomei Tomatsu, Coca-cola, Tokyo, 1969

Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s remains open until 13 January 2013 at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.

Photo on the homepage: Hairstyle, Tokyo 1969.

The exhibition Shoot! Existential Photography opened a few weeks ago at The Photographers' Gallery and i never got to mention it so far. The selection of work is fantastic, the theme is seductive and it makes you want to locate the nearest playground.

Load, aim, Fire!

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Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Paris 1929

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Simbeck's Foto-Schiessen, Freiburg 1979

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Simbeck's Fotoschießen, 1980

In the period following World War I, a curious attraction appeared at fairgrounds: the photographic shooting gallery. If the punter's bullet hit the centre of the target, this triggered a camera. Instead of winning a balloon or toy, the participant would win a snapshot of him or herself in the act of shooting.

The exhibition celebrates the use of the shooting gallery at fairgrounds by the famous (from Jean-Paul Sartre to Federico Fellini) and the non-famous but also the contemporary artists who have been intrigued by the idea of shooting oneself.

The most stunning work in the show is probably the video-sound installation Crossfire by Christian Marclay. I felt like that rabbit in the headlights of a car (or was it a hare? or a deer?) Crossfire is a super fast, loud and powerful sampling of shooting scenes from Hollywood movies. You stand in the middle of the room and wherever you turn your gaze there's Clint Eastwood, Antonio Banderas or some other action hero star aiming and shooting at you.

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Christian Marclay, still from 'Crossfire, 2007

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Christian Marclay, still from 'Crossfire, 2007

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Christian Marclay, still from 'Crossfire, 2007. Photo by Kate Elliott

Since the late 1970s, Jean-François Lecourt has been literally shooting his own image. In his early experiments, the bullet smashes the camera. The roll is pierced by the shoot. In the second series, the bullet perforates a wall of the lightproof box, a ray of light comes in and leaves a mark on the photosensitive paper.

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Jean-François Lecourt. Shot into the camera, 1987

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Jean-François Lecourt. Shot into the camera

Similarly, Rudolf Steiner uses the camera as a target. In the series Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture, the bullet hole is the aperture for a pinhole camera, creating an image upon impact.

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Rudolf Steiner, Pictures of me, shooting myself into a picture

The story of Ria van Dijk is endearing. Every single year, the lady goes to a fairground shooting gallery in Tilburg, Netherlands to shoot a self portrait. She started her pilgrimage to the shooting booth in 1936, when she was 16. The artist Erik Kessels collected all the images she has taken at the fair. Going from one self-portrait to another is fascinating. You see her hair getting greyer, her glasses following the fashion of the passing decades, her friends or fans coming along with her, etc. The only pause in the sequence is from 1939 to 1945.

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Ria van Dijk, Photo-shot, 1936

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Ria van Dijk, Photo-shot, 1969

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Ria van Dijk, Photo-shot, Oosterhout, Netherlands, 1978

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Ria van Dijk, Photo-shot, Tilburg, 1998

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Ria van Dijk, Photo-shot, Tilburg, 2006

I've written about the work of Steven Pippin in the past. His Point Blank series of photos was made by cameras recording the precise moment of their own destruction by a gun.

The action takes place in total darkness with the flash being triggered just as the bullet breaks open the analogue camera and hits the negative inside it.

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Steven Pippin, Mamiya 330 twin lens reflex shot with.25 calibre (self portrait), 2010

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Steven Pippins, Point Blank (detail), 2010

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View of the mechanism used by Steven Pippin. Photo by Kate Elliott

Sylvia Ballhause bought a shooting rig from the booth of a family business in Germany. It was the last booth working with analogue, large-format cameras in the country.

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Sylvia Ballhause, Shooting rig [active / passive]

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Sylvia Ballhause, Shooting myself, 2008

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Photographers' Gallery installation photograph by Kate Elliott

The shooting gallery is not as popular as it used to be but you don't need to go far to try the amusement yourself, the Photographers' Gallery has turned on of its rooms into a photographic shooting gallery so that visitors can shoot (at) themselves.

Shoot! Existential Photography is up at the Photographers' Gallery in London until 6 January 2013.

Related story: The cameras that record the moment of their own destruction.

This afternoon i stopped by the Victoria & Albert Museum to see Light from the Middle East, an exhibition of contemporary photography from and about the Middle East. It wasn't overwhelmingly brilliant but the show has some very strong pieces. In particular, a photo series that appears to draw parallels between the water towers photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher and the Israeli watchtowers in Occupied Palestine.

Bernd and Hilla Becher notoriously documented in black and white the disappearing industrial architecture of Europe. Taysir Batniji's series similarly attempts to index typologies of constructions. His subjects are the military watchtowers erected by Israel to control the movements of Palestinians inside and outside their own land and unlike the Berchers' fading industrial structures, they are still in use. The photo tableau does look like a Bechers: the use of black and white, the grid disposition, the front views of the buildings, etc. However, closer inspection reveals that the geopolitical context didn't allow the photographer to reproduce faithfully the Bechers' method and impeccable compositions.

The artist writes:

As a Palestinian born in Gaza I am not authorized to return to the West Bank, so I delegated a Palestinian photographer to carry out these photos. They are out of focus, clumsily framed, imperfectly lighted. In this territory, one cannot install the heavy equipment of the Bechers or take the time to frame the perfect position, let alone afford to wait days for the ideal light conditions. Aestheticization becomes a vivid political challenge, both in the creation of these photographs and in their reception, as these images challenge viewers to see these functional military constructions as sculptural, or as a part of a formal architectural heritage.

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Taysir Batniji, from the series: Watchtowers, West Bank/Palestine, 2008

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Taysir Batniji, from the series: Watchtowers, West Bank/Palestine, 2008

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Taysir Batniji, from the series: Watchtowers, West Bank/Palestine, 2008

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Taysir Batniji, from the series: Watchtowers, West Bank/Palestine, 2008

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Taysir Batniji, from the series: Watchtowers, West Bank/Palestine, 2008

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Bernd and Hilla Becher, Water Towers (Wassertürme), 1980

Light from the Middle East is at the Victoria & Albert Museum until 7 April 2012. Admission is free.

This morning i went to the press view of Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union at the Saatchi Gallery and I'm not sure that the artists participating to the exhibition heartily agree with Joseph Stalin's statement. Although this survey of contemporary art in Russia contains humour, balls and a few satisfyingly good pieces, the show is not exactly cheerful.

Take the gentlemen portrayed by Sergei Vasiliev. Their skin is their biopic: each of their tattoos carries political messages and details about their criminal life. The motifs were drawn using whichever tools and ink they could get their hands on: melted books, urine, blood, etc.

Vasiliev worked both as a photographer for a newspaper in Chelyabinsk and as a prison warden when he encountered the work of Danzig Baldaev. Baldaev was the son of an ethnographer who was arrested as an "enemy of the people", he grew up in an orphanage and spent over 30 years working in the Soviet penal system. Baldaev recorded the horrors of the Gulag in dozens of drawings but he gained fame for his meticulous documentation of the tattoos etched on the skin of the inmates. His notes and part of the 3,000 drawings he made of the tattoos are published in 3 volumes entitled Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia: Volume I, Volume II and Volume III.

Photographs by Sergei Vasiliev are featured in the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia. Now they are also at the Saatchi Gallery where they are covering the walls of one of the exhibition rooms:

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.12, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.10, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.8, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.5, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.4, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.15, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.20, 2010

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Sergei Vasiliev, Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Print No.13, 2010

More photos on the website of Fuel Design.

Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union: Art from Russia, Saatchi Gallery, London, runs from November 21 2012 till May 5 2013. Don't miss the accompanying show upstairs Breaking the Ice: Moscow Art, 1960-80s, it has some stunning works.

On Friday, bored and in Brussels, i took the tram to see the solo exhibition of Leigh Ledare at Wiels, a contemporary art center housed in a former beer brewery.

Ledare is famous for being one of the very few contemporary artists who still manages to shock and break taboos. His most famous series was shot over a period of 8 years and stars Tina Peterson, his own mother. Posing gleefully for him in négligé, naked or in fur hat. In sickness and in health. Flirting with the camera (or maybe the man behind it), masturbating, having sex with men the same age as her son, etc. One moment she is defiant, powerful and utterly stunning. The next, she's chubbier and wearing a brace around her neck.

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Leigh Ledare, Alma, 2012

The opening work of the exhibition doesn't pull any punch. Right at the entrance, there is Alma, a very L'origine du monde portrait of the mother laying on her bed, all porcelaine skin and spread legs. Alma is the name of the 3 year old girl who was given the photo to scribble over. Being so young, the child was deemed too innocent to read anything suggestive in the photo.

The photos are accompanied by hand written lists of the kind of men his mother met through personal ads in newspapers (the "Gonzo porn king", "the horni rabi", "the feisty fireman", etc.) or of the "Gifts mom has been showered with". Each list along with the letters, videos, souvenirs, vintage photo sinks further into the intimacy of the woman.

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Mom Spread with Red Heels, 2003

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Mom in New Home, 2007

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Mom Fucking in Mirror, 2002

The mother seems to be present in other series, even when she doesn't appear on the image. For The Collector's Commissions, Ledare contacted collectors and asked them to photograph him, in the setting of their choice. But the photographer adopts the position that his mother would normally take on those portraits.

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Collector's Commissions (Thea Westreich), 2008

In the series Personal Commissions, Ledare answered personal ads from women whose desires echoed those of his mother's, and paid them to photograph him in their apartments, he lets them direct him and chose the scenario. Ledare doesn't see these works as portraits of himself but rather as individuals portray of the ladies who photographed him. Just like he regards people's interpretation of his relationship with his mother as telling more about the spectator than about himself.

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Personal Commission, "A dream into the Real...", 2008

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Personal Commissions: "Let the Good Times Roll. 1 Blond, 53 yrs old, curvey, buxom, slim, clean, petite. No diseases or drugs. Seeking healthy, honest, reliable, financially secure younger man for discreet sensual fun. Ext#1084", 2008

The show contains more series than i'm covering here: works by Larry Clark and other friends of Ledare, portraits of Ledare'ex-wife by both himself and her new husband, portraits of an anonymous wealthy lady who hired him as her 'erotic photographer', etc.

These distinct but related bodies of work are studies not only of their visible subjects, but also of photography itself: how it mediates identity, relationships, love, loss, and, perhaps above all, human vulnerability. They are also indexes of the relationships of the artist with others - mother, family members, ex-lover, collectors, anonymous patrons, etc. - which, from the start, have played a central role in Ledare's work.

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Me and Mom in Photobooth, 2008

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Mom with Hand on Bed, 2006

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Mom with Hand on Bed Ed#2/5 w/ Intervention by Nicholas Guagnini, 2008

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Mom as Baby Jane, 2005

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Mom After the Accident, 2005

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Mother and Catch 22, 2002

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An Invitation, 2012

Leigh Ledare et al. runs until 25 November at Wiels Contemporary Art Center, in Brussels.

Previously: Leigh Ledare at Guido Costa Projects in Turin.

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