Current Exhibition

 

Rob Stothard ‘The Seamed Zones’

6th November  – 18th December 2017

This is an exhibition about the seams of society and immigration. The exhibition includes photographs of
every single immigration removal centre in the U.K. taken from the perspective of how they are viewed and
manifest in everyday life. Bucolic vistas of British countryside are subtly perturbed by the appearance of
barbed fencing and industrial complexes. Unassuming post-war, high-rise architecture masks the political
centre of these operations. Horses graze meters away from the Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, which was
described by an inspector as ‘appalling’ and ‘bleak’. The selection of images from each site is given further
context through a brief narrative that brings together personal comments on psychosocial mapping, facts
pulled from inspection reports, and anecdotes from detainees.
What do we make of these ambiguous zones, where human life is both sustained and brought to its very
limits? Paul Virilio has written that war redesigns environments: bombing churns landscapes and gas warfare
irreparably alters the atmosphere. What is not explicitly stated is how this churning equally whisks away and
ejects human bodies from its bounds. The new, churned landscapes of conflict-stricken zones equally
impacts zones from afar as asylum seekers mobilise and assimilate, changing cultural and social landscapes.
If, following philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the perception we are afforded through lived experience
grants us access to reality, what does it say when the fullness of that experience is present but perception
itself is partially blocked or occluded? The immigration removal centres depicted in these photographs are
hidden in plain sight. This quality is metonymic of one of the central debates in the discussion of
immigration broadly.
With the recent rise of right-wing and populist sentiments in UK, Europe, and the US, the need to parse out
and confront affronts to the dignity of life can’t be understated. The shock that followed both the Brexit
result and the election of Donald Trump speaks to a persistent invisibility of tyranny. The visible invisibility
of the detention facilities forms an eco-political complex that demands to be unstitched, pulled apart, and
examined. This is precisely the goal of The Seamed Zones: to offer a platform for just such undoing.