Detail of Interrogator/guard’s call button in Camp Five courtesy of Edmund Clarke. Photograph by Valerie Pezeron
Where is the fire in Edmund Clark’s exhibition? Guantanamo: If the Light goes out is a photography exhibition now showing at Flowers galleries in the East End next to all those yummy Vietnamese restaurants. And I was licking my whiskers heading to the opening last Thursday, “This show has great promise to be explosive!”
Edmund Clark’s commercial work for people like Adidas is widely known. He balances advertising assignments with smaller more prestigious gallery projects that garner critical acclaim and his first book was a well-lauded affair. His specialty? Private and personal portraits conveyed through domestic settings and people’s objects.
Ex-detainee’s sitting room and original handwritten child’s letter courtesy of Edmund Clarke.
It’s a pity those small vignettes of everyday life were not so successful this time around. What went wrong? For one thing the large scale of the photographs did not serve what should be a highly charged narrative in intimacy. The gallery had a hand in it too with crude choices such as similar frames to tie together the upstairs Clarke exhibition and Nadav Kander’s Yangtzee show downstairs.
Detail of Administrative Review Board Letter courtesy of Edmund Clarke. Photograph courtesy of Valerie Pezeron
Original, handwritten and hand-censored letter to a detainee from his daughter. Photograph courtesy of Valerie Pezeron
I learned of ex-inmates trying to cope with life after Guantanamo while talking to Clarke. These folks had no anger but seemed resigned to their fate and had formed an ex-Guantanamo old-timers community thus a support system. Very touching stuff indeed and the letters brought tears to my eyes. But I struggled to find a sense of broken domesticity in the Clark’s own pictures on display and some are more suggestive than others.
The irony in all of this is, as my fire was never lit Nadav Kander’s sweeping evocative Chinese landscapes gradually pulled me downstairs. Those beautiful pictures of Yangtzee- The Long River merge the great beauty of China with the Chinese government’s attempt at taming it.
Of the two private views at Flowers downstairs was the place to be at. Photographs courtesy of Valerie Pezeron.
This great battle I witnessed first hand when I visited Shenzhen a few years ago and saw for myself the damages on nature and the people living off the land. There the large format suits the visual conflict between the fragility of the daily domestic scenes and the imposing totems of China’s economic success. Think high towers, concrete bridges and family Sunday diners that sit uncomfortably side-by-side by the banks of the Yangtze river.
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