The Art of Deception: Pictorial Acts of Post-Truth
Artists: Paige Megan Hawley, Michal Raz, Sebastian Wanke, Lili Holzer-Glier, Michael Davies
Carmel by the Green
287a Cambridge Heath Road, London E2 0EL
Opening reception: 23 Feb, 6pm – 9pm
Exhibition dates: 23 Feb– 23 Apr, 2017
Opening times: Monday to Friday 8am to 5pm
Thursday 8am to 6pm
Saturday 10:30am to 3:30pm
Although the first known usage of Post-Truth dates back to 1992, the term’s popularity didn’t erupt until 2016; the result of a contentious electoral campaign in the United States, and the United Kingdom’s eventual cessation of membership from the EU. Oxford Dictionaries went on to crown it “Word of the Year”, defining the term as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” In both cases, highly-charged rhetoric that pandered to existing prejudices filtered down from numerous TV personalities and media streams. Exacerbated by a relentless 24 hour news cycle and the virulent spread of untruths on social media, corrective statistics and factual rebuttals failed to cool the hotbeds of political discontent. Donald Trump’s election as 45th president of the United States proved the apotheosis of these divided times.
In response to this on-going socio-political drama, The Art of Deception: Pictorial Acts of Post-Truth looks to explore, through the work of five international artists, how Post-Truth engenders a climate in which rhetorics of resentment –hate speech, misogyny, xenophobia –actively flourish. It investigates the power the media has, and visual media more generally, to (mis)represent reality; turning daily life into the power-hungry fever-dream of elites. Exhibiting a mix of documentary, digital and experimental work, the displayed photography walks the line between appearance and reality, language and image, fact and fiction, to analyse the divides and duplicities that this Post-Truth age creates.
The Art of Deception: Pictorial Acts of Post-Truth is London Photography Diary’s second show at Carmel by the Green. Curated by Ivana D’Accico, it is also the fourth in a year-long programme of exhibitions produced under The Photography Diaries platform. It follows Stereoscope magazine’s (University of St Andrews) No Strings Attached, New York Photography Diary’s Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror and London Photography Diary’s The Physical Fabric of the Cities. (see bottom of page for these exhibitions)
*Text by Daniel Pateman
Paige Megan Hawley
Paige Megan Hawley (based in London, UK) is a photographer specialising in the fine art industry. Her practice’s central focus is photography as it relates to issues around historic and contemporary feminism, using a range of photographic styles, from 35mm to digital and medium format. Hawley’s work has been exhibited at Truman’s Brewery, Four Corners Gallery, Chatham Gallery and the University of Greenwich.
Hawley’s series “Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer” centres on female objectification and the theory of the male gaze, and is inspired by artists such as Sarah Lucas and Francesca Woodman. “I had the idea of the window in my head from the very beginning. I wanted the viewer to be shocked, to feel as if they were the male gazing in through the window; not only at the woman but at something more shocking than expected.” As well as being theoretically informed, her work also draws on her own experience of sexual violence: “My images aim to confront my enemy and any male that sees a woman as an object or a piece of meat […] I want to inspire women to go forward from rape and violence. Their voices are important and need to be heard.”
Michal Raz (based in London, UK) is an Israeli artist, whose works combine painting, screen printing, digital images and collage, and who through the exploration of these different media seeks to unify the conflicting polarities of modern life. She is currently completing her MFA at UCL Slade School of Fine Arts.
With these collages Raz explores the dynamic interplay of language on the visual image, providing an imaginative re-interpretation of a selection of Donald Trump’s tweets. From each Twitter post she chose a few random words, entering these into Google’s search engine, and selected a few of the returned results, the result being colourful mixed-media collages. “They were inspired by the Rider Waite Tarot Cards, which are used primarily for divinatory purposes and foreseeing the future. These Trump-inspired versions present his often highly controversial statements in a humorous way, as well as offering a futuristic vision of a post-Trump society.”
Sebastian Wanke (based in Weimar, Germany) is a photographer and communication designer who holds a diploma in Visual Communication from Bauhaus-University. His works have been exhibited all over Germany (at Forum für Künste in Hannover and Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin, for example) as well as across Europe. They have also been featured in magazines such as Design Made and THINK TNK MAG.
Wanke’s series of photographs from the computer game Battlefield, developed in collaboration with Christopher Falbe, illustrate how much war and violence have become distanced from our conception of daily life. Representations of war are increasingly technologically mediated, with computer games presenting more and more realistic, domesticated simulations of war: “The environment of the game Battlefield consists of always active maps – the virtual world thus acting independently of the presence of players in the game. Within these realistic environments, the player is offered various possibilities to actively engage in a fictitious combat or tactical manoeuvres.” Despite the realism of such games, the consequences of the player’s actions in it are of course highly abstracted; indicating our modern disconnect with the often very real and lived trauma of warfare.
Lili Holzer-Glier (based in Brooklyn, New York) is a photographer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue and The New York Times. Her first book, Rockabye, documents the Rockaways post–Hurricane Sandy, and was published in 2015 by Daylight Books.
Holzer-Glier’s documentary photographs show the effects of a mental-health funding crisis in parts of the United States, in this instance the state of Illinois, as well as the effect of stigmatising rhetoric. “The Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago is one of the largest single-site pre-detention facilities in the world, with an average daily population hovering around 9,000 inmates. It is estimated that 35% of this population is mentally ill.” It isn’t necessarily that incarceration has resulted in their crises, but that a closure of dedicated centres for those suffering from mental illness, due to lack of funding, has led to their admission. Her work serves to illustrate not just the lack of resources, but a propensity in the media to conflate mental illness with criminality, which in turn results in stigmatising rhetoric and behaviour. Commenting on this, Holzer-Glier notes that “more patients than ever are being treated in jail rather than at a mental health facility, with Cook County Jail becoming one of the largest mental health care providers in the United States.”
Michael Davies (based in London, UK) is an artist and filmmaker whose practice is based in and amongst the creative milieu of Tottenham Hale International Studios. His work is predominantly based on analogue photography, painting, video installation and narrative film. With his photography, he documents those occurrences he encounters in everyday life, and which are often far stranger than any he could conceive through staging or in isolation.
A distillation of the nature of racial tension, which has seen a resurgence post-Brexit, Michael Davies presents a 35mm shot taken during the ‘Brixton Splash’ street festival in 2015. Here is “a lomo moment capturing the complicated relationship between the largely black community, centring around the ‘Barrier Block’ flats, and the local police.” The skilful composition of elements in the shot suggests an uneven power-play at work, and is indicative of the divisive effect xenophobic rhetoric helps engender.