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Saturday, 19 January 2008

Nick Waplington

Nick Waplington's Whitechapel show has just ended - but below is a review by Tadhg Devlin.

The show is a case of taking the art to the streets and to the masses - or maybe it's taking the middle classes to the masses. I'm not quite sure, but it's mixes map with the gallery and the street/local community.

This is what Tadhg thinks of it. (All pictures by Tadhg.)

Nick Waplington’s show at the Whitechapel Gallery extends from the gallery walls and out onto the streets of East London and the surrounding area. The work that is shown in the gallery consists of a projection, ‘Synesthesia,’ of 1, 000 images found on the internet taken by service men and women who have served in the Middle East over the past 20 years, primarily Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. There is also a live feed from a business radio station KCEO San Diego, so you have a mix of images while listening to the radio host discussing whatever takes their fancy at the time.

When I was there I was listening to the ‘Home & Garden’ show where they were discussing how the lemon tree was growing in their garden, while watching a young soldier hold a gun to his head, and images of fighter planes over a desert. Accompanying the projection is a collection of 10 books consisting of over 100 images in each, titled ‘You are what you see’. Though not the same images as those in the books, they are very similar, but by looking through the images at your own speed it becomes a more intimate experience, where you create your own interpretation of a narrative.

The exhibition continues in shops, cafes and pubs in the surrounding area as you are given map of the chosen locations of the rest of the work, the woman in the gallery described it as a photographic version of a treasure hunt. The images are of everyday scenes from streets of London to family trips to the beach, as well as urban and rural landscapes throughout the UK.

Although I really like the idea of bringing the work out of the gallery space and into the public domain, I always wonder how many people actually bother to engage or would walk around the list of locations to view the work. In some locations they didn’t even know what I was talking about and others were quite difficult to spot as the images blended into the surrounding space, be it a curry house or a ukele shop. There seem to be a number of photographers at the moment, who prefer to show their work in the public domain to make the work more accessible and less elitist. Zoe Strauss shows her work in a yearly ‘Under I-95’ show under the Interstate Highway, selling photocopied prints of her work for $5 dollars each. In 1995, she started the Philadelphia Public Art Project, a one-woman organization whose mission is to give the citizens of Philadelphia access to art in their everyday lives.

Not sure if this was Nick’s idea but the guy working in ‘Ali’s Superstore’ seemed more interested in how much the print on his wall was worth.

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