Kazuma Obara’s ‘Exposure’: Photography at the borders of the medium

Essays, Writing May 26, 2016

I have two pieces of news. Not only has photographer, editor and all round unique genius, Myriam Cawston launched Artistika Magazine, in order to bring readers explorations into skilled, sincere and beautiful art, but I have an article in it where I discuss Kazuma Obara’s project Exposure, which won the World Press Photo ‘People’ category in 2015. Excerpt below and find the whole article in the magazine; “Chance and Craft: Photographing Chernobyl’s legacy”.

Perhaps the most interesting photography is that photography which struggles at the edge of what is possible in the medium. Aritstika‘s interest in interdisciplinary forms and moments also brings us to that border between one medium and another, or where one medium fades off into something a little indefinable.

These borders must be explained. It is easy to stand on the sidelines of a discipline, calling out, usually in opaque styles, the weaknesses of the core discipline. We may not want to say that ‘clever’ works are poorer for their cleverness, but what we can say is that they command a more narrow audience: those who are in on the joke, in on the discipline, usually in an academic sense.

It is harder to play in the borders of a medium in a way that is sincere and communicative. It is this type of endeavour that leads me to Kazuma Obara’s project Exposure, something of a documentary piece, which draws on fine art and a sense of the artefact to respond to the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

As Obara told World Press Photo, upon receiving first prize in their People category in 2015, his aim with Exposure was to “help people imagine the invisible problems” that the nuclear explosion has left in its wake… Read the full article in Artistika

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Swarms: Marketing and Migrants

Essays, Writing August 18, 2015

David Cameron’s use of the word ‘swarm’ to describe the migrants desperately creating an existence at Calais has been remarked upon a lot, but it was a word which instantly set thoughts rolling for me as I have been reading Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi on that exact term.

In Uprising: On Poetry and Finance, he uses it to identify how groups of people act in hyper networked info-capitalism (1). What could be revealed by the use of the word in both cases? The more I look into it, the more both uses prove mutually revealing and the more they say about how connectivity really operates in this intensely networked society and economy. What I mean to say is, the usage of the term seems more than coincidental – it is informed by a common context even if it bubbles to the surface of discourse for very different reasons and for very different objects. That common context can be understood as the market and its role in shaping our society.

This is what I will explain with this blog post, and I hope by the end of it, I can stir some creative ideas about how we get beyond the ‘swarm’. Read More

House keys

Work in progress, Writing July 15, 2015

As the door closed, I noticed that I did not have my keys. The second when you realise that your plans have been fundamentally rearranged is one of suspension. It provokes a laugh. A moment of stillness before everything runs awry.

Locking myself out of my home today is nothing profound or major. I lost only a few hours. But I noticed that the moment of suspension, where the ridiculousness of your situation is revealed to you, is not much different to the same moment one experiences upon hearing life altering information. When we hear that we have lost more than just a few hours – a loved one, a dream, a home – that one split second is actually remarkably similar. Afterwards, it all rains down on us and laughter may abandon us for a long time, maybe forever.

I tend to err on the side of the absurd and I remember being in fits of giggles with my cousins as we rode to our grandfather’s funeral. Mainly because we were in a hearse. There is actually something hilarious about being in a hearse. Laughter and weeping seem to be a short flick away from one another.

I have had the privilege to often feel a strange kind of creative potential when things have gone awry. Or maybe it is a writer-photographer’s inclination towards observation at moments of heightened emotion. Being outside yourself as you experience life changing things is very elating.

In an attempt to gain access to my flat, I was on a train to pick up some keys. The Battersea development loomed to my right. What you can see there at the moment is an ultra-HD building site on a massive scale. The spokes and spikes and cranes and cords; the high vis-jackets and hard hats and fences and scaffolding; a whole mass of detail and structure. There are hundreds of glass panels, hundreds of concrete frames where balconies will be. The off-white chimneys of the old power station are set to be engulfed by a grey tide.

London is a tide itself and I am not a preservist. But those blank grey boxes seem to prophecy the empty spaces they will soon be for absent investors. Change is the nature of London, change is creative potential, but empty houses mean that someone has lost a home. Somewhere a life is going awry in a fundamental way, never to be hauled back to the promised framework.

Metaphor is knitted into the fabric of things – it’s only a matter looking at it in a certain way. As the train turns the corner towards Victoria station, a piece of graffiti reads: “It only takes a minute girl”.

For the powerful there are split second decisions that change everything. For the weak there are split second revelations that change everything. There is after all, the moment when something was possible, and the moment when it stops being possible. There is the closing of opportunity, and the asserting of one reality.  There is a liminal space within that moment in which strange things happen.

I’ve started writing about development in London because I think it needs to be visualised, and in a more simple sense, because I am starting to feel it. I am not the poorest, I am not the richest. I am very lucky, I have a good education, I have some debts. I come from a working class family that became to all effects middle class thanks to the last period of social mobility. I guess this set me up to be hyper-class-conscious (as you might call it). I’d rather say, I think empathy is everything that matters.

Now back in ‘my’ flat and with more to follow.