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This winter the exciting art space Elephant West welcomes visual artist Eleanoir Macnair and her delightful on-going body of work, Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh. Her project aims to highlight obscure images by overlooked photographers, or contemporary projects which lack exposure, as well as creating some of the most-known photographic works.

We were delighted to work with Eleanor once again and produced a set of large portrait vinyls over 70 x 90” big, along with the small photobooth size portraits prints which added to the playful and vibrant element of the exhibition.

THE EXHIBITION

Originating in the US, the photobooth, or photomaton, opened for business at Luna Park in Paris in the late 1920s, André Breton, the “father of the Surrealism”, and his circle were among its most enraptured users, returning frequently to the amusement park to make automatic self-portraits that show them not as untouchable artworld legends but as fallible human beings joining in with the latest social craze. Though usually treated as throwaway, these black-and-white photobooth portraits have survived to the present day. In homage to the spirit of Surrealism, not to mention disposable materials, Eleanor Macnair has rendered nine of these early twentieth-century selfies in her own disposable material of choice: Play-Doh.

To watch over these reimagined, large-scale Technicolor portraits of André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Suzanne Muzard, Paul Eluard, Louis Aragon, Yves Tanguy, Jacques André Boiffard and Marie-Berthe Aurenche, the walls of Elephant West will be alive with gigantic Play-Doh eyes, collaged together from Macnair’s earlier series of work. The collages have been created specifically for our Surrealism season, playing on the motif of the eye in Surrealism.

NOV 22, 2019 – JAN 5, 2020 

Elephant West
62 Wood Lane
London W12 7RH

IMAGES © Elephant / Eleanor Macnair Photography: Thomas Adank

This month sees the opening of ‘Icebreaker Dreaming’ with an outdoor projection of a frozen arctic sea animating the exterior wall of Pushkin House on Bloomsbury Square on the opening night. This is a new solo exhibition by the artist Ruth Maclennan. The exhibition explores the Russian Arctic, as a place to live in, to travel through, to project onto, to control and exploit for its natural resources, in the context of the climate emergency. The footage is shot from the bridge of a Russian icebreaker and conjures up a route for arctic shipping alongside the traffic in central London, connecting the distant arctic with urban, fossil-fuelled, metropolitan life.

Inside the building, an immersive installation, including archival c-type printing and mounting produced by Metro Imaging technicians, traces journeys that Maclennan has taken and imagined in the Arctic region. It brings together newly commissioned films, drawings, photographs and found objects.

‘The icebreaker is the future speeded up, as polar ice melts and icebreakers open up sea routes and fossil fuel extraction. The ship helps bring about its own obsolescence. This exhibition uncovers heroic, tragic, comic, and poetic stories of the icebreaker. The exhibition gives voice to people who call the arctic home, and the forces and ideas, and events that resist the world view the icebreaker represents.’ Ruth Maclennan. Icebreaker Dreaming continues Maclennan’s fieldwork in the Russian arctic begun with Call of North. Through this work, she reflects on what climate change means on the ground, and how the geo-political transformations associated with climate change are being experienced and expressed.

Maclennan’s exhibition, Icebreaker Dreaming, is part of a wider movement to undo prevailing ‘mid-latitude’ clichés of the Arctic seen from afar as untouched pristine nature, with polar bears, idealised or demoralised indigenous peoples, and memories of brave explorers sent to conquer the elements and claim this terra nullius.

During the exhibition, Pushkin House will be a stage and a meeting place for exhibiting, describing and interpreting what is going on and what is at stake in the Arctic region today. A series of talks, discussions and performances at Pushkin House will expand on the themes of the exhibition and questions raised by its artworks.

21st Nov 2019 – 8th Feb 2020 | Pushkin House, London

11 AM – 5 PM on THU, FRI, SAT | FREE ADMISSION

PV: 20th Nov 6.30 – 8.30pm RSVP

Metro Imaging recently had the pleasure of working closely with London-based, South African Photographer Gideon Mendel in producing his 2019 Prix Pictet Award shortlisted series Damage: A Testament of Faded Memory. The theme for the eighth cycle of the Prix Pictet is Hope, a theme that offers a wide range of creative possibilities and a strong set of connections to the Prix Pictet’s overriding theme of sustainability. Hope in the face of adversity. Recycling. Reforestation. Rewilding. Science – advances in medicine – and technological solutions for global environmental problems. Falling poverty levels. It is time to examine some of the positive actions on sustainability that are beginning to emerge by contrast with the alarming analysis that constantly assails us in the global media.

For the touring exhibition, the detailed photographs were reproduced as large-scale Lightjet prints on Kodak Endura C-type Matt Paper, 3m in length, and mounted to Dibond with subframes.

Artist’s Statement:

These images emerge from a time of hope, activism and tragedy. In the 1980s, I was part of a young generation of ‘struggle photographers’ in South Africa, documenting the fight against apartheid. In 1990 I left a box of my outtakes (negatives and transparencies) in storage in Johannesburg, and subsequently forgot about them. A few years ago, they were returned to me and I discovered that at some point in their many years of neglect, the box had been rained on, and the top layers had been affected by both moisture and mould.

I found that this process of decay revealed something potent and significant. Could the entropy of these negatives reflect ways in which communal memory of these pivotal events along with the idealism of that period is fading?

I was struck by the fact that the interventions that overlay my original photographs are happenstance, completely random impacts of time and water. The images still carry the power of those remarkable scenes I documented all those years ago, yet their corruption and damage seem to magnify that energy. My only action was in choosing to expand the frame into the negative rebate, reconsidering what might be included or left out of the final image.

At the start of my lifelong photographic journey, I experienced many intense and traumatic events but chose not to take the time to ‘process’ them psychologically. Like these negatives, I left them packed away. So this engagement with a distorted and clouded version of my memory reflects an intensely personal reconnection with my history. On a contemporary political and global level, it also serves as a reminder that in moments that may seem bleak and hopeless on all fronts, things can change in ways that surprise us.

Hope and tragedy seem so closely intertwined in my recollections of this period. It was a moment where the hegemony and power of the apartheid state seemed insurmountable in all its brutality, yet in response, there was such heroic idealism within the township mobilisation that I witnessed.

I feel that the actual negatives are now striking physical objects, their distortion speaking to a deeper truth beyond their original documentary format. I am presenting them here as testaments to faded memories of hope and struggle, reconsidered and reframed in all their historical materiality.’

The Prix Pictet’s eighth edition will begin at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, before embarking on its world tour. All twelve shortlisted artists will be exhibited, including the 2019 winner Joana Choumali.

Exhibition dates: 14 November – 8 December 2019
The Porter Gallery, V&A Museum, London
Free Admission

IMAGE CREDITS:
1. A rally welcoming the SWAPO Party of Namibia’s leader Sam Nujoma on his return to Namibia after thirty years in exile. Windhoek, September 1989. Scanned and reframed after accidental water and mould damage in 2016 © Gideon Mendel.
2. Viewing a Kodak Endura Lightjet Print with Metro Technician Jason Tasker © Gideon Mendel, photo courtesy of the artist.
3. Protestors outside the Congress
of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) House, after a May Day rally in which COSATU demanded the day become a paid holiday and called for a nationwide ‘stay away’ protest by workers. One and a half million workers across the country, along with thousands of school pupils and students observed the call. Johannesburg, May 1986. Scanned and reframed after accidental water and mould damage in 2016 – Gideon Mendel. Installation view of work at V&A Museum 2019.
4. Bishop Tutu—recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984—addresses a crowd of mourners and activists in Duduza Township during the political funeral of four young township activists killed during clashes with police. Shortly before the funeral, the Bishop intervened to save the life of a young man who had been accused by the crowd of being a police informer. —East Rand, Gauteng, July 1985. Scanned and reframed after accidental water and mould damage in 2016 © Gideon Mendel.