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Paper Geographies

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Paper Geographies at Manchester Central Library interrogates how the physicality of a photograph affects our sense of place in the world. The exhibited work extends beyond the photographic frame, comprising performance art, sculpture, animation, and film, alongside analogue and digital images. An exploration of the materiality of the photograph unifies the 12 artists featured despite their varied subject matter, which ranges from globalisation and home to borders and migration, trade and the Anthropocene.

Yang Wang Preston’s Red Pictures, above, is the anomaly in a purely documentary series exploring the political-ecosystem of China’s Yangtze River. A thick, red mist obscures the contorted silhouette of a tree trunk partially visible beneath. The image derived from a batch of large-format film, which was incorrectly loaded, and, in diverging from the norm, draws attention to the material processes that produce a photograph.

Meanwhile, Oran O’Reilly’s 100 Ships, below, subverts the fragmented understanding of the current migrant crisis afforded by 24-hour news culture. The artist’s images, which contain hundreds of overlaid images of rafts of migrants floating across the Mediterranean, fade into an indiscernible grey, suggesting that singular photographs may dilute our understanding of the crisis rather than widen it.

100 Ships. 2019 © Oran O’Reilly.
Orphaned Objects. 2017 © Alan Jones.
Looking for Cervantes, Losing Velàzquez. 2016 © Richard Page.
Scaffold. 2018 © Ben McDonnell.
Chimera. 2020 © Polly Palmerini.

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