After The Disaster installation (part 1)

After The Disaster

Exhibition Outline

(scroll down the page for installation shots)

There’s always an afterwards, isn’t there?

Whatever happens, there’s always something or someone to follow on, clean up, explain, rebuild.

This collection of photographs is about what happens afterwards. Its starting point was newspaper photographs of disasters. In these newspaper photographs there are always peripheral figures that you see picking through the rubble, trying to make sense of whatever happened, who come after the event but are rarely the main subject of the image. They are survivors, whether they are distraught relatives, searching for a missing family member, or experts, shifting the scene for evidence and clues.

I wanted to make these half-noticed figures the focus of my work. But how could I when I didn’t know anything about them? How could you represent someone or something about which you knew nothing? How could a photograph represent something almost unimaginable and respect its subject?

My response was to make the photograph itself part of the act of representation. I wanted the process of making an image to ‘show’ the difficulty of representing something (or someone) barely seen and practically unknowable. The image itself therefore had to undergo a disaster and become a survivor, just like the people being portrayed.

Each image started as an enlargement from the original newspaper source. The photograph was then distressed, crumpled, and subjected to its very own ‘disaster’. The resulting image (or object, as it subsequently became) was then re-photographed. The process was repeated again and again.

The resulting images shows the surface of the photograph melting into the subject of the image – the disaster ‘shown’ in the image becomes the disaster of the photograph. The collection is an intimate gallery of portraits that require the viewer to disentangle the surface of the image from the person portrayed in the image. What the viewer sees are figures floating between two spaces and two places because the form of the image keeps switching places with the content of the image.

The disaster is represented via the disaster of representation.

(Click here for the essay that accompanied the exhibition by the critic, artist and musician Michael Phillipson.)