Exercise 3: Politics/Control

Coursework, Creative Arts 1.1 Experience Creative Arts, Creative Arts BA (Hons), Project 6: The Politics of Place

Reading – Dean, T. and Millar, J (2005) ‘Room Five: Politics / Control’ In: Dean, T. and Millar, J (eds.) Place. London: Thames & Hudson. pp. 105-131.

Place is always political.

Even keeping a place empty is a political act.

Myths of a place are for political purposes such as territorial claims or to say which people should be in the place.

Communities can be bound by national or global politics.

Artists mentioned

Thomas Demand

German photographer. Presents work with various tableaux made from paper and cardboard. The places seem bland initially they are taken from recent political events. Demand is known for making photographs of three-dimensional models that look like real images of rooms and other spaces, often sites loaded with social and political meanings. He describes himself not as a photographer, but as a conceptual artist for whom photography is an intrinsic part of his creative process.

After perusing his website, the image that drew my attention was ‘Controlroom’, 2011. This is a model he reconstructed of the Fukushima nuclear power plant’s control room. He spends time recreating the model to then just photograph it. He says he does this to “make sense of the chaotic environment we are in”.

From https://thomasdemand.net/selected-work/kontrollraum-controlroom

Sharon Lockhart

Film – Teatro Amazonas. Shows a building that represents time, and a people that represent place. Taking a cinematic approach to photography, Sharon Lockhart’s photographs are the result of comprehensive preparation and staging. This book presents images taken in Brazil’s Amazon Basin, in a fishing village on the island of Visio and among the rubber-trappers along the river Madeira. Focusing on a balance between composing to bring out certain aspects in her subjects and capturing the natural relationships of people in their own surroundings, Lockhart’s photographs explore an interesting mixture of narrative and documentary. Essays by Timothy Martin and Karel Schampers look at the photos in the context of her previous work and the anthropological significance of her working methods.

Image from https://www.lockhartstudio.com/teatro-amazonas

Anri Sala

Albanian artist. Single channel video work that explores the transformative effect of politics upon a sense place.

Willie Doherty

Northern Irish photographer. Black and white photos of Derry. Exploring the relationship between landscape and memory, Doherty responds to mysterious isolated settings that conceal a troubled past. Though his primary geographic reference is Northern Ireland, and especially his native Derry – a city divided along sectarian lines during the ‘Troubles’, Doherty has trained his lens on sites of contested history elsewhere in the world, including Granada, Pennsylvania and the US/Mexico border. Studying these terrains in forensic detail, Doherty’s video and photo works reveal the impossibility of objectivity and historical truth, often using diptychs to set contradictory points of view against each other. His videos unfold slowly, sometimes combining material evidence with haunting fictional monologues that speak of shame, deception, brutality and its aftermath, as if leaking the stories contained within the landscape. Assessing how these sites appear to us now, Doherty uses powerful language and disorientating imagery to reflect on how we approach histories of trauma.

Image from https://www.kerlingallery.com/artists/willie-doherty#tab:slideshow;tab-1:slideshow;slide:8

Susan Hiller

The J-street project. Over 260 roads in Germany with names that represent a Jewish presence. The J. Street Project 2002–5 is a sixty-seven minute film that consists of a sequence of static camera shots of street signs in Germany that incorporate the word ‘Jude’ (German for ‘Jew’). Hiller found a total of 303 signs in streets, lanes, roads, avenues and alleys scattered throughout the country. The work focuses on the dissonance between these mundane, everyday signs and the memories they trigger of a genocidal history. The soundtrack records traffic noise, church bells and other incidental sounds. For this factual, indexical project Hiller maintained a neutral seriality in her approach. Cumulatively, however, it becomes clear that the signs are loaded with the memory of Jewish presence in the locations, not just from modern times but from thousands of years of history. The tension between past and present in the film highlights the sense of absence and traumatic loss. The place names operate as memorials of erasure.

Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba

Artist born in Tokyo, now a resident in Vietnam. Work draws on relationships between different cultural points. His works are often generated from multiple landscapes of thoughts combining unlikely mixture into the existing context of local history and issues.

Steve McQueen

British artist. Two related films – Carib’s leap and Western Deep. British artist Steve McQueen’s projected video and film installations are rich in cinematic tradition and compelling in content. Presented as a single installation, Caribs’ Leap and Western Deep are linked by the theme of descent. The dual-screen projection Caribs’ Leap juxtaposes luminous scenes of the beachfront on the island of Grenada—the birthplace of McQueen’s parents—with irregular images of tiny figures falling through a vast sky. The latter pay homage to the island’s indigenous Caribs, who in 1651 leapt to their death rather than surrender to the invading French. In Western Deep, the viewer takes a nightmarish journey into the hot, noisy depths of a South African goldmine. Presented and considered together, these two films suggestively liken modern mining conditions to a historical act of genocide.

Focus on Jeremy Deller – The Battle of Orgreave

Based on confrontations near the Orgreave Coking Plant in the miner strikes of 1984. He worked with an expert in reenactment and local people. Highlighted all the issues of the 80s – jobs and local identity and the importance of place to the sense of self.

To be finished


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