Friday, March 10, 2006

Photo Exhibit: Disputed Territory

This was a bit of an arty week for me, well at least Wednesday and Thursday were. So over the day I'll probably do a couple of posts about the things I saw this week.

On Wednesday evening I went to the opening of a photographic exhibition in the Gallery of Photography. Anthony Haughey’s Disputed Territory is a long-term project that examines conflicts over territory and identity in contemporary Europe. It will be on show at the Gallery of Photography from Wednesday 8th March. The Gallery web site appears to be having problems so I got a description from here
Featuring images from Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, Disputed Territory is a quiet investigation of the aftermath of conflict. As well as large-scale color photographs, Disputed Territory also includes Resolution, a sound/video installation that focuses on the massacre at Srebrenica. Produced in the aftermath of conflict in the Balkans, it serves as a forceful metaphor of the difficult task of addressing the history of conflict. Disputed Territory is the first in a season of exhibitions and events at the gallery which will examine art and the legacy of war. (

To be honest while the subject is interesting the photographs themselves don’t really grab me. They fall more into the artistic bracket where how they are displayed is more important that the individual photographs.

The collection of photographs of the personal debris of war and massacre is interesting in a history of war context but as regards photography I preferred the PPAI awards from a couple of weeks ago.

This exhibit reminded me of a Holocaust exhibit I saw in the British Imperial War Museum a few years ago. Part of the exhibit was personal artifacts recovered from the camps, including a strangely moving display of shoes. When you see small personal items linked directly to a historical event it gives you a clearer emotional connection to the people involved that you cannot get from dusty books or even photographs and videos. In this case we were looking at photographs and videos of the items instead of the items themselves. Evidence tags have had to be included in each photos and a man in a white forensics suit in the video to give context. While I liked these photos I still felt that I was just looking at photographs of a museum. It left me wanting to see the museum not thinking about the items.

Also included in the exhibit are photographs that the artist appears to have found, such as passport photos and an old school photograph. To me these are more historical artifacts than strictly the artists own photography. If he took the photographs himself and then labeled them as having been "found" to enhance the artistic and emotional value of the work then that is fair enough, but perhaps more photos could have been included. The space in the Gallery is limited, but it could have been better used to display more prints.

Overall it's probably worth a look (well I've seen worse exhibits there recently) but if you see just one photographic exhibit this year, then this is probably not the one you want to see.

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