Friday, 20 January 2012

Some observations...

Ibghy & Lemmens, vtls 004518389-53 (Danny O’Connor)
by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru

One of the many benefits of being a resident artist at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre is that the famous pod-like structures, a.k.a. the studios, are very close to the National Library of Wales, one of five depository libraries in the UK. Not being one to waste a good opportunity, I decided to visit the Library every morning during the month of October on my way to the studio.

I’d sit at a long table, often alongside academics or individuals plotting their family tree, and stare at photographs from randomly chosen collections I had requested the night before. I would stare at them for a long time. Long enough to look for signs. And when there were no signs to be found, I would go ahead and invent them. In this way, hour after hour, day after day, like those beside me prying the doors of their newly found past, I always managed to find what I was looking for.

It was an exercise in observation.

In one box I found 163 photographs of Welsh boxers, most of them from the beginning of the 20th century. I later learnt that many of these boxers were colliers, and that boxing had become an important stage in Welsh society during the boom of industrialisation, producing a prolific stream of champions and the emergence of local working-class heroes.

This box photographs became the starting point for much of the work I conducted during my residency, leading me to research subjects as diverse as the domestication of chance, the development of probabilities and statistics, coal mining in Wales, boxing, portrait photography, and the introduction of graphical representation in political economy.

One of the projects that has emerged from this research, entitled The Space of Observation, is an exhibition of photographs and writing that will be presented at 221a, Vancouver, towards the end of January. A second project, entitled The Wilful Undertaking of Serious Chances, will be further developed into a live projection / performance during a residency at ausland, Berlin, in March. Both projects have been realised in collaboration with Marilou Lemmens, who was able to join me for the last month of my residency.

I am very grateful for the time I was able to spend in Aberystwyth at the Arts Centre, without which, none of these projects would have seen the light of day. I would like to thank Alan, Eve, Carys, Cath, Carol, Paul and Tim from the Arts Centre, as well as Will from the Library, for all of their assistance and guidance. I would also like to wish my flatmates Matthew and Petri, followed by Clare and Lucy, all the best in their future endeavours. 

Lastly, I would like to show appreciation to Francine Royer and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Qébec for making my residency possible.

Richard Ibghy

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