Trespassing on Gallery Walls

As always, Shahidul Alam writes a thoughtful article on photography in his Trespassing on Gallery Walls in which he looks at the peculiar nature of the photograph that empowers it. Something that means that as the art world ingests our medium, “It has led to concerned photography being considered passé. In the hallowed world of limited-edition copies, the fine art print is about the object and not its purpose. Form triumphs over content.”

As he goes on to point out, photography has at times altered the course of history, changing people’s views – and regimes such as that in Bangladesh continue to provide evidence of its power when they close down shows such as “Into Exile: Tibet 1949 to 2009” and “Crossfire”. But do read his article, written as the introductory piece for the February issue of PIX, a photographic quarterly from India, where you can download this issue on the theme of Trespass. It contains some fine work, and I particularly enjoyed the black and white essays by Mark Esplin, Siddhartha Hajra, Aparna Jayakumar and Devansh Jhaveri.

Esplin’s digitally taken diptychs in City Builders (2010) pair portraits of New Delhi’s homeless with night images from the streets of the city. Hajra in ‘Opera Monorama‘ has photographed the performances of “Monorama or Rajuda (as he is commonly called in his neighbourhood)… a transgendered person who ‘performs’ in closed community spaces during the spring season which is associated with Sitala puja.” It is sensitive and intriguing work. Jayakumar in ‘On the Wrong Side of the Equator” is working in the surreal world of the film set, a Bollywood recreation of an Angolan hamlet in India. Jhaveri in Trespass looks at the Hindu cremation rituals.

In his piece, Alam makes reference to the “amateur grabs of Abu Ghraib“, with which we are all familiar, but an earlier  – and  non-photographic post on his blog, Control by seed, written by Najma Sadeque, is about a far more serious grab which occurred at Abu Ghraib, the home of Iraq’s national seed gene bank.

Under the control of Paul Bremer, military head of the Provisional Authority in 2004, Order 81 dealt  with plant varieties and patents. It allowed plant forms to be patented and genetically-modified organisms to be introduced. Farmers were strictly banned from saving their own seeds. Its “goal was brutally clear-cut and sweeping — to wipe out Iraq’s traditional, sustainable agriculture and replace it with oil-chemical-genetically-modified-seed-based industrial agriculture.”

As Sadeque writes: It’s not for nothing international researchers have termed the deliberate annihilation of Iraqi agriculture the ‘ultimate war crime’.

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