6 February - 31 March 2007
Drawing together newly commissioned work Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin's Fig. traces links between photography, imperialism and the colonial impulse to acquire, map and collect the world.
Broomberg and Chanarin observe that “the history of photography is intimately bound up with the idea of colonial power, and documentary photographers today have a worrying amount in common with the collector/adventurers of past eras. As unreliable witnesses, we gather evidence of our experiences and present our findings here; a muddle of facts, evidence and fantasy.”
Images of artefacts range from a Merman's body and a unicorn's horn found at the Booth Museum of Natural History, Brighton, to ancient waxworks and a Dodo's skeleton. These historical objects are complimented by the artists' own collection of contemporary ‘artefacts’, including floral arrangements from Hotel Rwanda and a single leaf blown from a tree in Tel Aviv by the blast of a Palestinian suicide bomber. Elsewhere, pictures of beacons along the South Downs, designed in the sixteenth century to warn of invasion, suggest a geographic and emotional boundary between Britain and the rest of the world.
The artists also explore the relationship between photography and identification. A group of works examine ‘idealised’ beauty, picturing models classified according to appearance, set against a plain, passport-like background.
Harking back to the growth of many Victorian collections, the exhibition offers a contemporary take on the ‘cabinet of curiosities.’ A booklet of texts draws together this disparate selection of images into the artists’ very personal narrative.
Toured to Fotofreo in Freemantle, Australia in 2008 and Impressions Gallery, Bradford in November 2008.
Photoworks and Steidl published the project as a bookwork in Autumn 2007.
Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Arts Council England.