SEAS – Socially Engaged Art Salon presents: Dystopia
#Brexit, #segregation, #Palestine, #Refugees, the #housing crisis, #deindustrialisation, #austerity… These are some of the themes explored in the exhibition Dystopia by photographers from Brighton and photo-projects from around the world.
Dystopia – An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic. (Oxford Dictionary)
Considering Brexit and the uncertainty it brings, the effects of global warning, recent wars, extreme inequality and the attack on liberal democracy and humanistic values both in the East and the West, the present global state-of-affairs can be described as dystopian. While Brighton appears to be a calm island in the storm, the photographers in this exhibition depict traces of dystopian conditions even in this seemingly jolly resort town, and also hint at catastrophic situations far away, whose echoes can be heard here.
In the series Shut out Shut In Robert Ashby photographs the architectural “lines of defence” that separates affluent houses in Brighton from the street and the rest of the community. These muted barriers might seem innocent, a far cry from the defence mechanisms in private housing and institutes in L.A. as described by Mike Davis in City of Quartz, gated communities in places such as USA and South Africa, or the illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. However, they represent a syndrome of insecurity, isolation and social disintegration – conditions that in part laid the ground for the Grenfell tower disaster, a snapshot of which haunts this series as a warning sign.
Also dealing with the built environment and socio-econoic conditions Louise Purbrick in the project “Space for All Estate” Agency through a workshop and a street intervention highlights the effect of house prices in Brighton on the possibility of having a city that enable working class people, graduate students and refugees to live in this city.
The landscape of war is portrayed in photography and writing by Naomi Foyle, whose travels in Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have influenced the dystopian world of her science fiction novels. Her triptych Un/Forgotten evidences the dignity and defiant spirit that enables people to survive decades, even lifetimes, of armed conflict and repression.
Gil Mualem Doron , who curated the exhibition, brings the human face of the refugees’ situation close to home. As part of his No Man’s Land project he exhibits the series “Muhammad”, for which he collaborated with a Syrian refugee from Brighton, portraying the tortured and traumatised body of a young man torn from his home town when it was occupied by ISIS. Mualem-Doron will also exhibit his collaboration with Kayla Louise ActiveStills, a Palestinian-Israeli photographers collective who document the atrocities in the occupied territories.
While the increase in migration and refugees seems not to be affecting Brighton, which is relatively a welcoming place to these communities, Brexit – which to a large degree has been generated by xenophobia – definitely will. In an airy and melancholic series, @JohnFowler depicts the present Brighton in a state of uneasy anticipation. Seaside towns have always an air of malaise when photographed “out of season” but here the summery colours are in sharp contrast to the apprehension, solitude or hiatus portrayed in these photographs.
The opening of the exhibition on Saturday the 29th September, 2-4pm will be accompanied by a short talk by the participants. Entry is free and we will continue afterward to the Brighton Photo Fringe opening.
The exhibition will also host a series of events organised by Euro Mediterranean Resources Network as part of Black History Month.
The exhibition is open weekday 9am-5pm, and weekends 2:30-4:30pm.