|George Osodi's photographs show the impact of our desire for oil on the Niger Delta
As the Uneven Geographies exhibition draws to a close at Nottingham Contemporary, we asked a couple of up-and-coming journalists what they thought about the exhibition. Our budding young hacks had participated in a magazine workshop held there and were keen to share their thoughts on a few of their favourite pieces. Below are their ponderings…but what are yours? What do you think of this cultural behemoth that’s landed into the heart of the city? How do you rate the exhibitions? What would you like to see happen there? Answers on the back of a postcard, please (or the thread at the end of this article).
Nobody Wants To See Mladen Stilinović
Last century economist Wilfredo Pareto observed that 80% of wealth in Switzerland was held by 20% of the people. Fast forward to now and the three richest people in the world own assets equivalent to the sum total of the 600 million poorest. That's progress!
Nobody Wants To See by Mladen Stilinović graphically illustrates this inconvenient truth with the number 3 printed 600 million times on 3 reams of large format paper. Order created from chaos, symmetry from imbalance and beauty from ugliness.
We have to trust that the number is actually reproduced so many times because only the top sheet of each stack can be seen. This mirrors the visibility of the rich versus the anonymity of the poor. It's unlikely that the 3/600M equation will enter public consciousness like the 80/20 rule has. And that echoes another rule of three that applies to global poverty; see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. (James Moore)
Amphibian - Alphabetic - Proliferation Eduaro Aboroa
I detest frogs - almost broke the land speed record back in the eighties when one jumped in front of me on the way to school. Froggy was probably more scared of my backcombed hair than I of his erratic bounding. Yet ironically I’m strangely drawn to Eduaro Alboroa’s Amphibian - Alphabetic - Proliferation. Sounding like a record title by The Fall, this artwork seems even more bizarre than Mark E Smiths ramblings. Quite a feat.
In a world where a fifth of the developing countries population is undernourished, these gluttonous blighters are uncomfortable viewing. Polluting and transmitting fatal fungi, they exterminate all in their path. The Daleks would be proud. Recoiling, I focus on the tanks Latin Script that informs this breed of African clawed frog is one of nature’s most destructive species, consuming anything in its path. This cleverly symbolises the eradication of Latin through modern day languages. At least now I have an excuse to justify my dislike for this particular breed of amphibian. (Jamie Slimehouse)
|And before you consider submitting four empty bottles of Pepsi to the Turner Prize, read on below...|
Insertions into ideological circuits: Coca-Cola project, (Insercoes em Circuitos Ideologicos: Coca-Cola Projeto) 1970 Cildo Meireles
How can a Coca-Cola bottle and a banknote become political propaganda? Cildo Meireles a Brazilian conceptual artist began a thought-provoking mission in the 1970’s. The project comprised of printing controversial statements onto re-useable glass Cola bottles and bank notes. They were consequently re-circulated back into distribution.
Meireles used the defacing of Cola bottles and banknotes as retaliation against the repressive government regime and to show the public how art could be mobile. Using inexpensive, imaginative methods Meireles’ thoughts, questions and views appeared throughout the community. This form of guerrilla tactic showed initiative in a restricted society.
“Go home Yankees!” and “Quem matou Herzog?” (“Who killed Herzog?”); bare no relevance to the present but were poignant messages in their time. Meireles’ method; dubbed ‘mobile graffiti’; was ingenious in giving a voice to sensitive issues in an oppressed society. (Kyria Hermiston-Hooper)
Factory 1 (Tangier, Morrocco) Yto Barrada
Another dull, repetitive day at the office, darling? Try spending your day on a production line: shelling shrimp. Your life here in Britain could be very different without basic literary skills or any knowledge of numbers: dealing with the tongue-twister that is shelling shrimp could be your only option in life. To provide basic educational opportunities worldwide would cost $6 billion a year. And that’s nothing compared to the $8 billion spent on make-up in the USA in one year alone.
Uneven Geographies hosts the photography of Yto Barrada, a French visual artist aiming to capture the monotony of industrialisation on individuals operating within factories, rather than the environmental impacts. Uniforms, sanitation, time and money cuts mean a restriction in cultural identity, as Barrada highlights - a country is nothing more than a big, working machine.
Maybe the office isn’t as bad as you thought. (Amy Ahsan)
|Another dull, repetitive day at the office, darling? Well try spending your day on a production line shelling shrimp...|
Oil Rich Niger Delta: Soccer Time George Osodi
Whilst football may be a game of two halves, over two thirds of the population of the Niger Delta live on less than 70p a day, pittance considering the billions of oil exported from that region each year. George Osodi’s Soccer Time (2006) is one of over fifty documentary photographs depicting life along the delta, juxtaposing the lush mangroves to toxic wastelands. In this image, local children play football in a field, their skyline dominated by huge rusting oil storage tanks and the distant orange flash of ‘flaring’ (a less threatening term, coined by oil companies to describe our planet's single biggest source of greenhouse gas). Osodi beautifully captures these two polarized scenes, they could easily (and should) be two different locations. To see the horrifying impact our desire for oil has had on the Delta, view this talented photographer's website. (JP Robinson)
Unexploded – (handheld 2003) Steve McQueen
Unlike Turner Prize winner McQueen’s 2008 film Hunger, this one does not immediately explode into our consciousness, aiming for a subtler response, but still with the ‘images’ if not the ‘acts’, of violence.
An exterior shot of a 5 storey reinforced concrete building in Basra, shattered roof lines collapsing around its ears, walls pock-marked with shell and rifle fire. The function of the building is unclear, whether factory, offices, or Government base.
Interior shot: we see a shell hole puncturing the roof, the busted grills of reinforcing steel bent inwards and downwards following the trajectory of the shot. Flat surfaces and stairwells are strewn with battle debris, perhaps explaining why there are no people in this film.
It seems that McQueen has been influenced by Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine (2007), an examination of the relationship between war and business interests. In fact the film shows much of these: the wreckage of war - concrete, steel; the absence of people, the need for control, rebuilding and ownership of markets in the post-war era.
What is it that is unexploded here? The shell, or the truth of what the war is all about? (Christopher Knight)
Uneven Geographies finishes on the 4th July so you better hurry up if you want to catch it. Otherwise check out the Nottingham Contemporary website for details about future talks, workshops and exhibitions.