A Photographic Mind

An inadequate explanation of my passion for photography

Archive for November 2012

Mitra Tabrizian – “Home/Land” at Loughborough University Arts

Mitra Tabrizian Home/Land project, Belton Road, Loughborough.

At the moment there are two billboard installations in Loughborough of work commissioned from Mitra Tabrizian by Radar, the Loughborough University contemporary arts programme, as part of their Home/Land project. Work has been commissioned from four artists to create site specific pieces with personal responses to the “interpretation and understanding of place, identity and landscape”. This is in the context of “an international network of academics researching ways in which photographies (sic), in the widest sense, play an important role in the articulation of gender, identity, place and citizenship” (The Lens of Empowerment: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Women’s Photography). You can get more information at:
http://www.arts.lboro.ac.uk/radar/radar__whats_on/introduction/
(though this link may well not last beyond this month).

Today I went to the talk by Mitra Tabrizian about her piece (she also spoke about other work she has done over the past few years), and in preparing myself for this I visited the installations in Loughborough and made my own record of them (see one installation above). Now before commenting further I must declare an interest, which was perhaps what prompted my to give up my lunchtime. I am currently working on a project on the industrial heritage in the landscape of the area of Leicestershire where Loughborough lies. So I wanted to see someone else’s response to the place and the issues.

In the past I have not been a fan of constructed images in photography, most of which I find to be fictions that are uninteresting. I do not believe that all photography is a fiction, or that it is all distorted by the photographer’s selections and choices. However, I do seem to engage with and enjoy installations of photography in public spaces, particularly by the use of billboards, not least because it provides an antidote to the endless banality of advertising.

Each image is the scene of a former factory, one a men’s clothing manufacturer, the other a crane builder, each with an attendant figure, small in the former industrial landscape. The people in the images did not work at the particular companies, but I found that I really would have liked them to be former workers at the particular places, which would, I think, have produced a more visceral reaction to the sense of abandonment and isolation that Tabrizian says that she seeks to convey. The two people in the installation images were workers at other factories that have also gone; one a local man who is now documenting the history of his factory, the other an immigrant of Indian origin from Zimbabwe (so with a background of previous migration and dislocation). There are more images that have been made, particularly in Leicester, some without workers and some with young unemployed people. I think that these worked less well than the ones with the older former factory workers.

There is a palpable sense of the abandonment and isolation that all workers must feel when the place that they have dedicated years of their lives to closes down and is wiped from the face of the earth, as these places surely will be. The workers are lost, without a compass, in the sort of place where they had some use, importance and value. Their contribution to the production and economic success of the local community is therefore ignored and the evidence of it is being eradicated. That is the way that capitalism works. However, I am not so sure that there is any more of this sense of abandonment and loss in the images because the worker was a migrant, rather than an indigenous resident.

To me the installation above works well in presenting the issue in the context of the relentless capitalist agenda alongside an industrial estate, whereas the one below contextualises the concerns in a location where the displaced workers might be living now – the old Victorian terraced housing areas of a type now dominated by the immigrant communities in Loughborough and Leicester.

Mitra Tabrizian, Home/Land project, Ratcliffe Road, Loughborough.

Tabrizian claims that the work asks questions without providing answers and creates a sense of ambiguity. I am not so sure. As a commentary on the capitalist process and its effect on people the piece is unambiguous. The implied answer has to be a combination of restrictions on the way that corporations use people and their lives dedicated to the good of the corporate owners and managers, the ways that we recognise and remember the contribution by workers to economic success, and the improvement of processes for transitioning people into new opportunities for themselves and the community. For, as US Senator Elizabeth Warren has said so clearly “You didn’t build that on your own”, referring to the essential community and government support for all economic enterprise, there is surely a responsibility to pay back and support the people that the entrepreneurial enterprise uses and who have contributed their lives to its success.

2012-11-19

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Written by Robert Ashby

November 20, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized