Cruel Radiance Cruel Radiance

Cruel Radiance

curated by Harri Palviranta and MarKo Karo, Backlight '23, Tampere Art Museum, Gallery Saskia, Photographic Center Nykyaika, and Gallery Koppelo, Tampere, FI

More than at any other moment in human history, we are now confronted by contemporary borders manifesting as incarceration camps, penal colonies, detention facilities and refugee centres. Countries are gradually becoming prisons to confine and contain undesirable bodies. The well-being and welfare of citizens and ecology are being replaced by concerns for security and risk management. Conflicts are simply becoming tools for neo-liberal capitalism to recycle pain. Such violence leads to long-term trauma, helplessness and precarity, causing significant negative influences on our social fabric. Yet, in a hyper-digitised world, forms of violence remain invisible or unrecognised. Recognising and narrating such experiences become difficult unless we find ways to understand how violence is defined and applied across micro (interpersonal), meso (institutional), and macro (trans-societal) scales. For these processes to be known, they must be explored, visualised, satirised and challenged.

In times where violence, conflict, and trauma are normalised as everyday happenings, Ali Akbar Mehta’s practice performs the task of critical storytelling of historical narratives. Bringing together local and geographically distant perspectives on constructing historical narratives that shape our political landscape, encourages its audience to revise and reconsider what stories we tell and how we share them. It casts the audience, not as a passive spectator, but as a critical witness.

For Cruel Radiance, Mehta shows two separate archival projects that complement and amplify each other:

Purgatory Archive


War List CODEX


Access them using this QR code or link here

Backlight’23 Julmaa valoa | Cruel Radiance, Majaoja edition

Opening on Friday, 2 June 2023, from 6PM to 8PM
3.6. - 31.7.2023

Photographic Centre Nykyaika | Susanne Kriemann 
Gallery Koppelo | Veli Granö 
Gallery Saskia | HNV Collective, Anaïs Tondeur, Ali Akbar Mehta

Backlight’23 Julmaa Valoa | Cruel Radiance

Opening on Friday, 16 June 2023, from 6PM to 8PM

Tampere Art Museum | Fiona Amundsen and Kanariya Eishi, Solmaz Daryani, Noelle Mason, Anastasia Mityukova, Susan Schuppli, Toshio Fukada and Eiichi Matsumoto

Backlight’23 Nykyvaloa | New Rays -student exhibition

Opening on Friday, 16 June 2023, from 4 PM to 6 PM


Demolition Art House

Backlight is an international photo festival organized every three years by Photographic Centre Nykyaika in the city of Tampere, Finland. Backlight is one of the oldest international photography festivals in Northern Europe. Now in its 13th edition, the triennial stays true to its pioneering spirit in the theme for the 2023 festival: Cruel Radiance.

What kind of evidentiary power can we associate with images in a world where man-made crises and conflicts have long since exceeded human proportions? How does matter, our material and elementary surroundings, record evidence of violence? What kind of roles do such non-human visual actors have in bearing witness to our pernicious actions?


Cruel Radiance, the 2023 edition of the Backlight festival, examines the evidential aspects of matter through photography and the moving image. From the omnipresence of particle pollution to the lasting legacies of nuclear weapons, from sub-zero temperatures to the residues of the mining industry, the exhibition sheds light on a whole variety of material elements as visual actors with singular testimonial capacities. In so doing, the stage is set for diverse visual dimensions and temporalities of violence ranging from slow cumulative processes to more abrupt conflicts. True to its title, Cruel Radiance invites the viewer to engage with a material repository of our ways of being together.

Backlight´23 Photo Festival has been curated by visual artists Harri Pälviranta and Marko Karo.

As part of the festival program, Backligt presents an exhibition produced in collaboration with students of three tertiary institutions. New Rays is an exhibition created by a new generation of makers. Reflecting Backlight2023’s theme Cruel Radiance, the exhibition portrays the invisible forces that are changing future realities.


The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Willem de Kooning in Rotterdam, Tampere University of Applied Science Fine Art (TAMK) and Tampere University Photojournalism (TAU) as well as  Photographic Center Nykyaika’s Backlight Festival. The exhibition will be displayed in the unique milieu of the demolition art house Pinni47, which will be demolished after the exhibition.

In addition to the exhibitions, there will be artist talks at the galleries and the art museum on June 17th, and a short film screening at Arthouse Cinema Niagara on June 18th.

The exhibitions of the Backlight Photo Festival have been produced in collaboration with the Majaoja foundation and Tampere Art Museum. The exhibitions have also received support from Arts Promotion Centre Finland, the City of Tampere, Finnfoto and the Patricia Seppälä foundation.

More information on the exhibition website here