Victor Stamp – Colonial Exhibition from The Garden of Oblivion series (201X)
Of The Garden of Oblivion, Stamp embraces the contrived label post-photography.
Being the type who is inherently suspicious of folks who prefix trends, tendencies and or movements with the word post-, I’m not sure what that means–if it means anything at all.
Let’s examine the image itself and try to reverse engineer a working understanding of what post-photography might entail.
It’s reasonably clear that the images are of a particular vintage–early 20th century; and that the titles have been added as ex post facto interventions.
On one level the title verifies this initial impression. As we’re informed here: the images are from an early 20th century provenance and were distributed as a tabloid in French colonial Africa.
Also, apparently the images have been carefully re-sequenced to imply a more equitable relationship between the parties in the photos.
However, the text that has been added as an additional intervention points back to the colonial history of exploitative export practices–listing material resources harvested en masse from Africa and then shipped back for European consumption.
The conceptual purpose of this would seem to be an reclaim the erotic potential of the images while still concretely linking the work to its ugly colonial history.
Don’t get me wrong, I think several of these would be compelling, artistic pieces if you could divorce them of their initial context. The trouble is: I don’t think it works like that.
To illustrate this point let’s consider a divisive symbol in the U.S.: The Battle Flag of The Confederacy. As I was raised primarily in the south, I’ve encountered a great many people who proclaim that the flag is about heritage not hate.
When presented with this fact, most heritage-not-haters will counter that it represents that notion of the sovereignty of states’ rights–again completely glossing the fact that the US Civil War was fought over a states right to own slaves.
My default response to confederate flag strokers has become simplified over the years. I point out that to the Navajo, the swastika had a history much longer than its association with National Socialism. Only they called it a whirling log.
Yet, after WWII–and due to the now indelible association with the Nazis–the Navajo voted to retire the symbol due to the horrors with which it’s use was now tainted.