In Conversation at ICP: Edmund Clark
By Ava McLaughlin
The work of British photographer Edmund Clark explores unseen experiences of conflict, mainly focusing on the War on Terror. Clark’s stated motivation is to expose these scenes that we’re not used to seeing, expand the realm of photojournalism and dive into complex global issues from a humanist perspective. His ability to push personal as well as artistic boundaries forces himself and his audience to face facts that we may not normally wish to.
In Clark’s discussion about his work, he talks about how images and art can be distancing. Because audience members already have stereotypes and preconceived forms of propaganda in our minds, we may not view art in the manner it’s intended. However, Clark’s images attempt to address these misconceptions. His approach to terror creates a different view by diving into new perspectives. Audiences register images quickly and with immediate assumptions, and Clark tries to decode these assumptions so that we can explore the complexities behind these seemingly simple images. He wishes to show us, quite literally, more than what meets the eye.
During the talk, Erin Barnett labeled the exhibit as “War Photography”, but Clark rebutted by saying it’s not “war photography” but a visual representation of a new kind of thinking on war. He wishes to document war settings, but in a less traditional sense, which is bringing the public information through the creation of art.
One of the many memorable quotes Clark stated in his talk was that “everywhere is a battlefield”, and he explains this through his images. He uses simple shots of pools and hotels that seem normal but are actually places main influencers of the War on Terror have stayed or been a part of. He uses these simple images to symbolize that conflict is everywhere, even in normal, everyday locations. He wishes to bring a visual narrative to display that conflict arises even when we see nothing on the surface. His true triumph is made by visualizing the invisible by uncovering the battlefields of ordinary spaces and the terror we can find when we choose to truly read into reality.
A page from a United States court case transcript is featured in the exhibit. The transcript is used to display how the War on Terror filters down to the society that is all around us. This page among others are printed on a 30x40 canvas that’s size serves to emphasize the importance of these documents as more than just documents but also as the embodiment of authority over an individual. These pieces of documentation are more than sheets of paper, but are also information allowing us to look differently and use art as informative influence. The use of these documents as art shows that putting information in different contexts equals different meanings, different ways to discuss issues, and different forms of exploration.
His belief that terror is the potential for fear of something we don’t know, influences him to strategically black out or censor parts of images. This self censorship serves to emphasize that not knowing things is part of worldly terror. “Photographs become what you don’t see” as Clark stated, so it is up to the audience to fill in the blanks themselves. This humanistic approach to his art is further emphasized by having blurry images that were quickly taken out of discretion and were never edited. An entire room covered wall to wall of these unedited photographs, strive to show the natural control, claustrophobia, and power of today’s War on Terror. By uncovering audience disorientation, he is able to create a unique visual experience for everyone and push the limits on using art as information and power.
You can view Edmund Clark's "The Mountain of Majeed" exhibit at the Flowers Gallery at 529 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011 until March 3rd, 2018. For more information go to www.flowersgallery.com.