TAXED TO THE MAX – NOORDERLICHT 2019 (NL)

October 5, 2019 § Leave a comment

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at least you are not afraid to live life on the brink of chaos
Groningen
THE NETHERLANDS
OCTOBER 6 – DECEMBER 1 2019
Offical opening October 5th
‘The 26th edition examines the societal tensions created by international conglomerates with their vast accumulations of capital and their influence on national and global politics. TAXED TO THE MAX asks: how does the increasingly perfected entanglement of corporatism, finance capital and modern government affect the lives of regular people?’

Incorporating photographic series, mixed media, video and sound installations, performances, and spatial work on this theme, artists include amongst others, Alan Gignoux, Brigitte de Langen, David Klammer, Davide Monteleone, Dorothée Elisa Baumann, Ezio D’Agostino, Gina Peyran Tan, Igor Tereshkov, Ishan Tankha, John Vink, Jos Jansen, Kanad Chakrabarti, Mari Bastashevski, Mark Curran, Martin Toft, Oliver Ressler & Zanny Begg, Thomas Kuijpers & Ursula Biemann.

This edition will include installation of The Breathing Factory (2002-2006) at the Centrum Beeldende Kunst (CBK) Groningen. The project was originally supported by Arts Council, Belfast Exposed, Butler Gallery & Gallery of Photography & published by Edition Braus (2006)

The Breathing Factory critically addresses the role and representation of labour and global labour practices in this newly industrialised landscape as manifest in manufacturing and technology. Global industrial practices are characterised by fleeting alliances, transient spaces as capital moves when and as required. In such an ephemeral, precarious and globalised context, the project focuses specifically upon the Hewlett-Packard Manufacturing and Technology Campus, part of a cluster formation of multinational technology complexes, in Leixlip in the east of Ireland’

The Breathing Factory was the outcome of practice-led masters & doctorate research, one of the first in the Republic of Ireland. More information here.

Full PDF of book available for free download here.

 

CAPITAL @ Ballarat Biennale

August 26, 2019 § Leave a comment

Screen Shot 2019-08-20 at 11.15.34

Curators Naomi Cass & Gareth Syvret

National Centre For Photography Ballarat AUSTRALIA

AUGUST 24 – OCTOBER 20 2019

Constructed at the height of Australia’s gold rush in 1864, the former Union Bank stands in the centre of Ballarat as a powerful symbol of the rise of western capitalism and the development of colonial Australia. Capital is curated in this architectural space as it undergoes transformation into the city’s new National Centre For Photography.
 

As part of the core progamme of the Ballarat Biennale, the exhibition, CAPITAL, explores the use of the photography as a method for reflecting upon systems of value and exchange in contemporary Indigenous and settler cultures. Drawing together Australian and international practices that encounter forms of financial, political, human and photography’s own capital, the project questions the capitalist model and its legacy. If the invisible hand of the market grips the world, then Capital proposes that art can reveal and question that which seeks to bind us. 

Featuring Gabi Briggs (Aus), Peta Clancy (Aus), Mark Curran (Irl/De), Simryn Gill (Malaysia/Aus), Kristian Haggblom (Aus), Newell Harry (Aus), Lisa Hilli (Aus), Nicholas Mangan (Aus), Darren Siwes (Aus), Martin Toft (Jer), Yvonne Todd (NZ), Justine Varga (Aus) and Arika Waulu (Aus). More information on opening events and ongoing programming here.Installation includes the film Algorithmic Surrealism (2015) from THE MARKET (2010-) projected in the vault of the former Union Bank (now site of the new National Centre for Photography)

Algorithmic Surrealism (2015) (digital still)

An excerpt from the film is available to watch here

‘Curran filmed in the new financial district of Zuidas, on the periphery of Amsterdam, global centre for algorithmic trading. Adapted from a text by former trader and financial activist, Brett Scott, examining High Frequency Trading (HFT) and how the input of human values, are excluded, the voiceover and title of the film, Algorithmic Surrealism, are inspired by Scott’s essay. The film suggests the hegemony of HFT, accounting now for most trading, and extinction of human reason—including traits such as empathy and ethics—in market decisions will only perpetuate the power relations of minority wealth in globalised capitalist systems’ Helen Carey

Commissioned by NEPN (University of Sunderland, UK) & Noorderlicht Festival (the Netherlands). Elaborating on the project, THE MARKET, addressing the functioning and condition of the global markets, Curran undertook research in Zuidas, the new Global Financial District on the periphery of Amsterdam, the Netherlands during the summer of 2015. The location for the film is a landscaped park facing one of the largest Dutch-based global banks.
Film Editor: Lidia Rossner
Film script adapted by Mark Curran from original essay by Brett Scott
Voice: Claudia Schäfer
(Single channel HD digital video, colour, sound/voiceover, 11’ (full length))

For Allan Sekula (1951-2013)

(CAPITAL invite image: Darren Siwes, OZ OMNIUM REX ET REGINA, Silver female, courtesy the artist and Gagprojects)

 

SPACE OF FLOWS: FRAMING AN UNSEEN REALITY (Documentation)

August 21, 2018 § Leave a comment

Data & Power (Panel, Krakow, May 2018)

‘Featuring an international slate of artists, the festival focuses on the ceaseless flow of people, information, and substances, through expanding urban areas, the virtual realm of cyberspace, and endangered natural landscapes. In the face of worldwide streams of refugees and migrants, an overload of manipulable digital information, and injurious amounts of harmful particles suspended in the atmosphere and discharged into waterways, those in power look the other way. And all the while they withdraw and intensify control to protect what they have. Short-term success is favoured over having a sustained vision of the future’ Iris Sikking, Curator Krakow Photomonth 2018

Extracts from THE MARKET (2010-) /RYNEK (2010-)(installation at the Szara Kamienica Gallery)

Installation comprised Photographs, Powerpoint Presentation, Transcripts of Verbal Testimony, A4 Colour Photograph/Text Pamphlet, Film & 3D Data Visualisation.Algorithm & Soundscape composition Ken Curran / Data Visualisation Damien Byrne.

The project was installed alongside excellent projects by Susan Schuppli, Axel BraunEline Benjaminsen.

As part of the official programme, a panel titled, Data & Power took place on Saturday, May 26th at Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art. Participants were Iris Sikking, Dominik Skokowski, Eline Benjaminsen, Mark Curran, Esther Hovers, Clément Lambelet, Rune Peitersen, Salvatore Vitale and was moderated by Alicja Peszkowska. To a full house the event went overtime due to audience responses and discussion. It was documented and available below.

‘A more perfect reminder of exactly how on-time and urgent these artists and their projects are, considering our connected world, even the very ground we walk upon. These stories remain resident in my consciousness and now alert me at odd moments to pay attention, to observe my own special omens’ From review by Christiane Monarchi on Photomonitor.co.uk available here.

Thank you to Iris Sikking for her generous invitation and to Aga Dwernicka, Joanna Gorlach, Karolina Leśniak, Marcin & Małgo and team in Krakow for all their hard work.

 

THE MARKET has been curated by Helen Carey (Director, Firestation Artists’ Studios) and supported by the Arts Council of Ireland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, NEPN (University of Sunderland, UK), Noorderlicht (Netherlands), Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Gallery of Photography (Dublin), Belfast Exposed & Culture Ireland.

PUBLIC TALK (UK) – NEPN

November 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

nepn_headline

NEPN is pleased to welcome Mark Curran to Newcastle to speak about his photographic practice on Wednesday 16 November at 6.30pm at the Mining Institute, Neville Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle, NE1 1SE.

The talk will start at 6.30pm prompt in the Lecture Theatre and will be followed by drinks and informal conversation in the Library until 8.30pm.

The talk is free however booking is requested HERE.

Mark Curran is an artist researcher and educator who lives and works in Berlin and Dublin. He holds a practice-led PhD from the Dublin Institute of Technology, is Lecturer on the BA (Hons) Photography programme, Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Dublin and Visiting Professor on the MA in Visual & Media Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin.

Incorporating multi-media installation informed by ethnographic understandings, since the late 1990s, Curran has undertaken a cycle of long-term research projects, critically addressing the predatory context resulting from the migrations and flows of global capital. These have been extensively published and exhibited, including DePaul Art Museum, Chicago (2010), Encontros da Imagem, Braga (2011), PhotoIreland, Dublin (2012), Grimmuseum, Berlin (2013) & FORMAT, Derby (2013). He has also presented widely including The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2012), Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) (2013), Abbey Theatre, Dublin (2014), McGill University, Montreal (2014), Royal Anthropological Institute, London (2015), University of Ljubljana (2015), University of Bern (2015), Glucksman Gallery of Art (2016) & Boston University (2016).

Mark Curran’s The Economy of Appearances was commissioned by Noorderlicht Photofestival 2015 and NEPN. Sited in the new financial district of Zuidas on the outskirts of Amsterdam, the work focuses on the Netherlands role in global structures of High Frequency Trading (HFT) and Shadow Banking. It is an elaboration of his long-term transnational research project, THE MARKET, focusing on the functioning and condition of the global markets.Taking the sphere out of abstraction and positioning it as a pervasive force central to our lives, themes include algorithmic machinery of financial markets, as central innovator of this technology, absorption of crises as normalisation of deviance, and long-range mapping and consequences of financial activity distanced from citizens and everyday life.

Supported by Arts Council of Ireland & curated by Helen Carey, THE MARKET has been presented at Gallery of Photography, Dublin (2013), Belfast Exposed Gallery (2013), Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris (2014) and Noorderlicht, Groningen (2015). An extensive exhibition, titled The Economy of Appearances was presented at Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), Ireland in Autumn 2015 and nominated by Christiane Monarchi, Photomonitor (UK) for the Deutsche Börse Photography Award 2016. Extracts from the project feature in a group exhibition on mapping global networks of capital titled, I Stood Before The Source currently installed at the Blackwood Gallery, Toronto, Canada. Future installations are confirmed for the UK & France in 2016/17 and a full publication of THE MARKET is also planned.

Links:

Video Profile: https://vimeo.com/user6725215 

Recent interview with Lewis Bush on Disphotic (UK): http://www.disphotic.com/market-interview-mark-curran/

Please note that disabled access to the Lecture Theatre is gained at the rear of the building and it is best to telephone the Mining Institute ahead on (0191) 232 2201.

Image: Financial Surrrealism (World Trade Center II)
, Hoarding, Zuidas Financial District, Amsterdam, Netherlands, From THE MARKET (2010-)

NEPN was established in 2009 to promote and develop photography in the North East of England and beyond. Working with photographers, artists, curators and a wide range of cultural partners, we aim to create a lively and informed context for photographic activity and to encourage new audiences for photography. NEPN is hosted by and is an initiative of the Northern Centre of Photography at the University of Sunderland.

its Since our launch NEPN has established a wider national and international profile for its programme and continues to act as an influential agency for photographers and lens-based artists.

To join NEPN’s mailing list to receive information about events and opportunities please sign up HERE

NEPN is funded by the University of Sunderland. Current commissioning and professional development programme is supported by Arts Council England through Grants for the arts.

NEPN is a member of the North East Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN).

The Economy of Appearances – Installation (Film)

March 25, 2016 § Leave a comment

‘In Mark Curran’s practice, projects unfold over time. (Since the late nineties) Curran has undertaken a cycle of long-term, ethnographically-informed multimedia research projects addressing the predatory context resulting from migrations and flows of global capital…in this major exhibition, The Economy of Appearances, Curran draws these projects together for the first time, expanding the enquiry with newly commissioned work completed in Amsterdam. Incorporating photographs, film, sound, artifactual material and testimony, themes include algorithmic machinery of financial markets, as innovator of this technology, absorption of crises as normalisation of deviance, and long range mapping and consequences of financial activity distanced from citizens and everyday life’ Helen Carey

from Installation at Limerick City Gallery of Art (Autumn 2015)

Filming Isabella Walsh
Editing Isabella Walsh & Mark Curran

Thanks to Arts Council Ireland, Noorderlicht Photography, NEPN (University of Sunderland), Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Belfast Exposed Photography Gallery, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Gallery of Photography & Culture Ireland

Full information here (e-flux).

Installation images here.

The Economy of Appearances @ LCGA (Installation)

October 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

1_LCGA_Curran

In this major exhibition, The Economy of Appearances, Curran draws these projects together for the first time, expanding the enquiry with newly commissioned work completed in Amsterdam. Incorporating photographs, film, sound, artifactual material and testimony, themes include algorithmic machinery of financial markets, as innovator of this technology, absorption of crises as normalisation of deviance, and long range mapping and consequences of financial activity distanced from citizens and everyday life.
2_LCGA_Curran 5_LCGA_Curran 6_LCGA_Curran

6A_LCGA_Curran

Curran filmed in the new financial district of Zuidas on the southern periphery of the Dutch capital – a global centre for algorithmic trading. Adapted from a text by former trader and now financial activist, Brett Scott, which examines High Frequency Trading (HFT) and how the input of human values, are excluded, the voiceover and title of the film are inspired by Scott’s essay, Algorithmic Surrealism. The film suggests the hegemony of HFT and the extinction of human reason or intelligence – human strengths that also include traits such as empathy and ethical behaviour – in Market decisions will both perpetuate and render more extreme the power relations of minority wealth in globalised capitalist systems

7_LCGA_Curran

Through the application of an algorithm identifying the words “market” and/or “markets” in public speeches by relevant national Ministers of Finance, the data is then transformed to create the installation soundscape. To date, algorithmic translations of Michael Noonan (Ireland), George Osborne (United Kingdom), Pierre Moscovici (France) and Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Netherlands & Eurozone Group President) have been included in exhibitions in those countries. Curran activates the popular graphic representation of such circumstance through a 3D visualisation/virtualisation of the algorithmically-generated soundscape—The Economy Of Appearances—to represent contemporary financial capital functioning through the conduit of the financialised nation state.

Financial Surrealism (WTC), Zuidas Financial District, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2015, (A4 double-sided colour print) (text on reverse)

Financial Surrealism (WTC)
Zuidas Financial District, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2015
(A4 double-sided colour print)
(text on reverse)

…in the case of the Netherlands, most of the Dutch shadow banking sector…is set-up by corporations for tax purposes, to attract external funding and to facilitate intragroup transactions…the focus of the shadow banking entities located in Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands is the euro area, or even global.

While the relative importance of the euro area shadow banking sector has risen significantly since 2007, it remains smaller than the regulated banking system. Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Ireland are the exception: the shadow banking sector assets in these three countries are substantially larger than those of the regulated banking system, accounting for almost two-thirds of the entire euro area shadow banking system. Credit through non-bank channels can have important advantages and contributes to the financing of the real economy, but can also become a source of systemic risk…

(source Banking Structures Report (2008-2013), European Central Bank, October 2014)

Shadow Banking

Many financial institutions that act like banks are not supervised like banks. The term, shadow bank was coined by U.S. economist Paul McCulley in 2007…because they are not subject to traditional bank regulation…they are in the shadows.

They are characterized by lack of disclosure and information about the value of their assets…opaque governance and ownership structures between banks and shadow banks; little regulatory or supervisory oversight…

Shadows can be frightening because they obscure the shapes and sizes of objects within them. The same is true for shadow banks. Estimating the size of the shadow banking system is particularly difficult because many of its entities do not report to government regulators. The shadow banking system appears to be largest in the United States, but nonbank credit intermediation is present in other countries—and growing. The shadow banking system’s share of total global financial intermediation was about 25 percent in 2009.

(source Finance & Development, International Monetary Fund, June 2013 Vol. 50 No.2)

9_LCGA_Curran

Portrait (Child) from series Stoneybatter (Dublin) August 1998

Text Helen Carey

Algorithm & Sound Composition: Ken Curran
3D Data Visualisation: Damien Byrne
Film Editor: Lidia Rossner
Film script adapted by Mark Curran from original essay by Brett Scott
Voice: Claudia Schäfer

Thanks to Arts Council Ireland, Noorderlicht Photography, NEPN (University of Sunderland), Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Belfast Exposed Photography Gallery, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Gallery of Photography & Culture Ireland

Mark Curran The Economy of Appearances
4 September–30 October 2015
Opening: Thursday, 3 September
Limerick City Gallery of Art
Carnegie Building
Pery Square
Limerick
Ireland
gallery.limerick.ie

Full information here.

The Economy of Appearances @ Limerick City Gallery of Art

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

LCGA e-vite The Economy of Apperances Mark Curran curated by Helen Carey

Opening Thursday, 3 September

‘In Mark Curran’s practice, projects unfold over time. (Since the late nineties) Curran has undertaken a cycle of long-term, ethnographically-informed multimedia research projects addressing the predatory context resulting from migrations and flows of global capital…in this major exhibition, The Economy of Appearances, he draws these projects together for the first time, while expanding the enquiry with newly commissioned work completed in Amsterdam. Incorporating photographs, film, sound, artifactual material and testimony, themes include algorithmic machinery of financial markets, innovator of this technology, absorption of crises as normalisation of deviance, and long range mapping and consequences of financial activity distanced from citizens and everyday life…’
Helen Carey

E-Flux announcement & full text here. Continuing until 30 October

Limerick City Gallery of Art
Carnegie Building
Pery Square
Limerick
Ireland

Thanks to Arts Council of Ireland, Noorderlicht (Netherlands), NEPN (University of Sunderland, UK), Institute of Art, Design & Technology (IADT), Belfast Exposed, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Gallery of Photography & Culture Ireland

Acknowledgments
Algorithm Design & Sound Composition Ken Curran, 3D Data Visualisation Damien Byrne, Editor Lidia Rossner, Voice Claudia Schäfer Script adapted from an original essay by Brett Scott

Image
Algorithmic Surrealism 2015 (digital still)
(Single channel HD digital video, colour, sound/voiceover)
Zuidas Global Financial District, Amsterdam, Netherlands

NOORDERLICHT 2015 Installation

September 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Central location of  #DataRush & #Pulse exhibitions of NOORDERLICHT 2015.  The Sugar Factory Groningen, the Netherlands

Central location of
#DataRush & #Pulse exhibitions of NOORDERLICHT 2015.
The Sugar Factory
Groningen, the Netherlands

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Dossier extracts from THE MARKET (2010 – )

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Systemic Risk (Shadow Banking)(detail) (A4 Inkjet prints, text on reverse outlines pivotal role of Netherlands, Luxembourg & Ireland in global shadow banking system) Zuidas Global Financial District Amsterdam, Netherlands 2015

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Right: Financial Surrrealism (WTC) Zuidas Financial District Amsterdam, Netherlands 2015 Left: Systemic Risk (Shadow Banking) Zuidas Global Financial District Amsterdam, Netherlands 2015

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Algorithmic Surrealism 2015 (Single channel HD digital video, colour, sound/voiceover, 11’) Zuidas Global Financial District Amsterdam, Netherlands script adapted from essay by former Trader & Financial Activist, Brett Scott

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The Economy of Appearances 2015 (Single channel HD digital generation, sound, 5’ 30’’) 3D Data Visualisation of the algorithmically-generated soundscape identifying the application of the words market and/or markets in the public speeches by Dutch Minister of Finance & President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem Algorithm Design & Sound Composition by Ken Curran Data Visualisation by Damien Byrne

‘Activating the popular graphic representation of such circumstance through a 3D visualisation of the algorithmically-generated soundscape—The Economy Of Appearances—to represent contemporary financial capital functioning through the conduit of the financialised nation state’ Helen Carey

#DataRush continues at The Sugar Factory, Groningen until 11 October

Thanks to Wim Melis, Ype Van Gorkum, Hester Keijser, Maria, Henne, Shahin and all the Noorderlicht team and to Amanda Ritson and NEPN, University of Sunderland for their generous support.

Full details of NOORDERLICHT 2015 available here.

#DataRush – Commission & Installation NOORDERLICHT/NEPN‏

August 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

This post is to announce the generous awarding of a commission by NOORDERLICHT in collaboration with the North East Photography Network (NEPN), University of Sunderland (UK) to elaborate on my ongoing project, THE MARKET, on the functioning and condition of the global markets,

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 23.05.29

The resulting research was undertaken in the Zuidas Financial District on the southern periphery of Amsterdam with emphasis on the central role of the Netherlands in the Global Shadow Banking System and Algorithmic/High Frequency Trading (HFT).

It will be presented as an installation in the main exhibition, #DataRush at NOORDERLICHT 2015 opening Saturday, 22 August at the Old Sugar Factory, Groningen (the Netherlands).

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 23.06.42

#DataRush continues until 11 October.

​On Sunday, 23 August, there will be a public event at the Old Sugar Factory
organised by WAMS titled DEBATE DATA RUSH involving participating artists and scientists. Full details are available here.

The installation will later be presented at Photoville in New York in the Autumn and the UK in 2016.

Acknowledgments
Algorithm Design & Sound Composition Ken Curran, Data Visualisation Damien Byrne, Script adapted from text by Brett Scott Editor Lidia Rossner, Voice Claudia Schäfer, Collaborator Helen Carey

Steel Works by Julian Germain: ‘a postmodern visual history writing’

January 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

There was a time when to be from Consett was to be almost a celebrity. Catapulted into the media spotlight – photographed and interviewed by every kind of journalist, analysed by economists and sociologists, the subject of television documentaries and academic studies. Now the vast steelworks site, grassed over and landscaped, awaits council inspiration. Of the proposed schemes, which have included a Category A prison, the most bizarre has been a tourist park for the elderly entitled “The Coming Of Age”.

from Steel Works (detail), Julian Germain

from Steel Works (detail), Julian Germain

The above description originates from the book, Steel Works: Consett, From Steel to Tortilla Chipspublished in 1989 to accompany the exhibition of the same title. Funded and presented by the Side Gallery in Newcastle, the project, by the English-born photographer Julian Germain, was a study of Consett in the North of England – ‘a town invented by four well-to-do gentlemen of Tyneside because of accessible mineral resources’27, becoming home to the largest opencast mine and steelworks in Britain. With its closure in the 1980s and the subsequent transformation of the site, the steelworks were completely dismantled involving the largest demolition project ever witnessed in Europe.

Germain employed diverse strategies of representation of the town and its community in order to re-present and re-assert, a sense and semblance of this once vibrant community. A page from Steel Works (above) is open to reveal a two-page, collage-like spread: a holiday photo-booth with a couple bedecked in sunglasses, the family and the family dog in the parent’s backgarden, groups of workers standing and sitting for the photographer, a smoke break, a tea break, and small samples of texts, ‘the factory lassies from Lancaster’ including ‘P. O’Leary’. The images appear haphazardly in display and somehow ‘speak’ to, of and about each other. A sense of a living community is portrayed. However, all are black and white and the clothes look ‘different’. It is not now.

from Steel Works, Julian Germain

from Steel Works, Julian Germain

Germain presents individual testimony, anecdotes and interviews alongside his use of visual materials (above). We are invited to partake in familial memory by recourse to personal archives and family albums. Displayed alongside, are images by Don McCullin, made for the UK newspaper, The Sunday Times in the 1960s (below).

from Steel Works, photographs by Don McCullin

from Steel Works, photographs by Don McCullin

Germain also incorporates the work of another photojournalist, Tommy Harris, a local whom in addition to holding a full-time job at the steelworks, was responsible for photographing the surrounding community for local newpapers in the 1950s and 60s. Harris’s use of a square format camera would mean including details that would later be cropped. Yet, ‘it is these chance elements in Tommy’s uncropped photographs that make his work so revealing’ (quoted from exhibition text).

from Steel Works, photograph by Tommy Harris

from Steel Works, photograph by Tommy Harris

In the image above , a solitary hand in the upper left hand corner grasps the union workers banner echoing the central motif of solidarity.

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from Steel Works, photograph by Tommy Harris

The two women cling to the bedspread (above), stretched as a backdrop for a picture in the local paper, a daughter or a niece standing gracefully in the backyard. A sense of pride is evoked as both of the older women watch on, accompanied by a sense of purpose in their role, as this younger woman gazes out, towards somewhere. The project also included Germains’ own work in the region from the late 1980s. Through the ‘x’- marked glass of the image below, a labouring man with a carpenter belt shades his eyes and peers outwards and in doing so consciously or unconsciously implicates himself – this glass, t/his reflection, now part of a past or a possible future? As the final paragraph of the press release to accompany the opening of the exhibition, asked:

How do you define a community? The community of Consett has been defined and re-defined throughout its history…changing beyond recognition. The steelworks have been completely dismantled…what identity are people forming for themselves in the new Consett and how do they regard the past?

from Steel Works, photograph by Julian Germain

from Steel Works, photograph by Julian Germain

This work, collated by Germain, surveyed a period from 1910 until 1989 and has since been described as a ‘postmodern visual history practice’*. In a location where all physical traces of an industrial past had been removed, Germain constructed a social document of this local working community, through the reconstructive discourse emanating from the diverse representations presented, addressing an identity from the remnants and fragments of its visual and oral histories. More recently, George Baker’s description of the potential of photographs in the projects of the American artist Sharon Lockhart seems relevant and appropriate to the aforementioned projects and practices:

A genetic connection and return is contemplated, and the photographs emerge not so much as statements of appropriation and citation – proper to the debates carried on around photography at earlier moments of postmodernism – but as documents of historical remnants, continuities between past and present, the survival of what seems most precarious and impossible to contemplate in the current historical moment. (2008: 7)

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Steel Works (installation view), Multivocal Histories, Noorderlicht Festival, Netherlands, 2009 (image courtesy Noorderlicht)

In 2009, twenty years following its publication, the curator and educator, Bas Vroege, included Steel Works in the exhibition, Multivocal Histories, at the Noorderlicht Festival in the city of Groningen in the Netherlands. Germain’s project was identified by Vroege as the central focal points for the conceptual framing of the exhibition in his selection of the projects included. Drawing on the history of montage, in the ethnographic sense, multivocality, is a critical representational strategy which acknowledges the many voices and multi-linearity of everyday experience in the construction of research. Vroege seeking more hybrid, transdisciplinary and ‘slow’ ways of working, writes in the accompanying catalogue:

Without the intention of doing so, Germain thus gave birth to a photographic practice that could be labelled ‘postmodern visual history writing’. Its essence resides in the fact that no one voice can be authoritative: history is by its nature the product of multiple voices and of recombining records from different moments in time. Or, as Frits Gierstberg recognized in Perspektief No. 41 in 1991: “By juxtaposing different types of photography Germain brings up for discussion their separate claims to authenticity and historical reality within the presentation itself”.

Sources:
*Germain’s practice was described as such in the brochure accompanying a conference titled ‘Work’. This was the inaugural event organised by the International Photography Research Network (IPRN), an initiative of the University of Sunderland, England (9-11 September 2005). Germain was present as a guest speaker
*Quote from text that accompanied the exhibition, ‘Steel Works: Julian Germain’ (Side Gallery, Newcastle, England, 1989)
*Quote from text that accompanied the exhibition, ‘Tommy Harris: Photographs of the County Durham steel town from 1949-1979’ (Side Gallery, Newcastle, England, 2003)
*Baker, G. (2008) ‘Photography and Abstraction’, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, article as part of year long project, WordsWithoutPictures, now available as a publication here

A version of this text was included as part of my practice-led doctorate thesis, the abstract of which can be viewed here

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