Thessaloniki PhotoΒiennale 2023: The main exhibition “The Spectre of the People”

Opening: Friday 20 October 2023, 20:00, MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography (Pier Α’, Warehouse A’, Thessaloniki port, Greece)

The exhibition will be inaugurated by the Deputy Minister of Culture, Mr. Christos Dimas.



In Brazil, a member of the Xakriabá indigenous people is holding out a camera as if it were an arrow, while a couple is photographed on the Copacabana beach wearing spacesuits, in a pointed comment on the mandatory restrictions in force during the pandemic. Distorted portraits of political leaders and empty seats in chambers of parliament share the same space with photographs depicting Roma families, the oddities of American society and the impact that Brexit had on the lives of ordinary citizens. Grotesque photographs capturing the relentless pursuit and display of fabulous wealth “converse” with historical photos of the May ‘68 barricades in Paris, of protests and demonstrations from Hungary, Athens, India, Austria and Rio de Janeiro, as well as with snapshots documenting the meteoric rise of populist parties and far-right movements across the world. Finally, to what extent does a flag remain a symbol should it lose its figural depiction?

These are only some of the photographic stories presented as part of MOMus’ Thessaloniki PhotoBiennale 2023 main exhibition under the title “The Spectre of the People”, curated by art historian and photography theorist Julian Stallabrass, featuring the work of 25 photographers and artists. The exhibition will be hosted at the MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography and the MOMus-Experimental Center for the Arts in Thessaloniki’s port, Greece, from October 20, 2023 until February 11, 2024. Through works of photography and video, the exhibition explores the multiple aspects of populism and represents the international, original production of this year’s event, featuring works by artists from countries such as Brazil, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, the Philippines, Poland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States.  

The exhibition will be inaugurated by the Deputy Minister of Culture, Mr. Christos Dimas, on Friday 20 October 2023, at 20:00, at the MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography (Warehouse A’, Thessaloniki port), Greece. 

As the spectre of populism haunts the globe, many artists have grappled with its myriad dimensions: how and if to represent ‘the people’ (should they be thought to exist as a concept), how to represent democratic power, the nature of charismatic leaders, popular protest and insurgency. The media of the lens, woven tightly around the history of mass politics since their inception, have been a natural field for this artistic exploration, which is variously documentary, performative, satirical and conceptual.

The artists shown in the Thessaloniki’s PhotoBiennale main exhibition “The Spectre of the People” approach these issues in widely contrasting, if sometimes overlapping, ways: some document populist leaders and their followers, and by contrast those people declared enemies by populist movements; some offer satirical takes on the absurdities of authoritarian leaders and the political delirium that they create; others perform as populists or make activist work in solidarity with protest movements; others again offer conceptual works on populism, and the deep economic crisis from which it drew strength.

The exhibition is divided into four main parts. The first two are shown at the MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography: part one explores artistic responses to the fraught dilemma of how to represent mainstream democratic politics, especially as it falls into crisis. Part two looks at populist leaders and followers, along with the deadly consequences of their actions. The next two parts are shown at the MOMus-Experimental Center for the Arts: part three envisions those who are excluded from ‘the people’ by populist movements, set alongside the very rich who do all they can to insulate themselves from the rest of us, and the means used to police the boundaries. Part four tracks the performative culture of insurgent protest movements of both the left and the right.


Artists / Photographers: Bani Abidi, Craig Ames, The Archive of Public Protests (A-P-P), Kimberly dela Cruz,, Ana Carolina Fernandes, Joan Fontcuberta και Pilar Rosado, Lauren Greenfield, Edgar Kanaykõ Xakriabá, Kostas Kapsianis, Uta Kögelsberger, Christian Lutz, MacDonaldStrand, Daniel Mayrit, Dimitris Michalakis, Boris Mikhailov, Rafal Milach, Sinna Nasseri, Paolo Pellegrin, Wolfgang Scheppe, Prarthna Singh, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Vangelis Vlahos, Dougie Wallace, Carey Young



Thessaloniki PhotoΒiennale 2023 / Main Exhibition: “The Spectre of the People”

Venues: MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography (Pier Α’, Warehouse Α’, port), MOMus-Experimental Center for the Arts (Pier Α’, Warehouse Β1, port)

Duration: 20.10.2023-11.02.2024

Opening: Friday 20 October 2023 | 20:00

Coproduction: MOMus-Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, Μουσείο Φωτογραφίας Θεσσαλονίκης, MOMus-Experimental Center for the Arts

Support: Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki, British Council, Heinrich Böll Foundation – Thessaloniki Office

Publishing Partner: University PressΕκδόσεις Πανεπιστημίου Μακεδονίας