A Study in Soil and Other Luminous Matter

Krakow Photomonth, May 2011

The exhibition for Krakow Photomonth 2011 was made under the festival’s theme of the Heteronym, curated by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.

A Study in Soil and Other Luminous Matter is a quasi-scientific work documenting a lost place and realising the perilous bond between a landscape, the circumstances imposed upon it, and the individuals who chart its territory.

It is composed of a ‘biography’ made up of selected archive images, found photographs, found and original text. The biography is of two unknown artists, who investigated an unknown archive in an unknown city.

The writer of the ‘biography’ is more omniscient than seems plausible, and the language is deliberately confused; work vs document, author vs artist, archive and city vs landscape. References to great cultural discoveries, piracy, the age of exploration, alchemy and anarchic literature act as triggers or fleeting associations.

The images are mostly taken from the archive at Belfast Exposed which we worked with intensively for two years as Archive Managers. We wanted to describe the strangeness and importance of these images, their inextricable ties to the city, and impart some sense of the power they held over us during the time we worked with them. To do this as fully as possible, it had to be a disjointed narrative. In order to be completely honest, it had to be a fiction.

Original Images courtesy of Belfast Exposed © The artists acknowledge and thank the original photographers (Mervyn Smyth, Sean McKernan, Gerry Casey, Seamus Loughran and all other contributing photographers) of Belfast Exposed's archive. Copyright of the original archive material remains with these photographers and with Belfast Exposed.