Found Not Taken / Reviewed by Dorothy Hunter / 18.07.14
Edson Chagas’ Found Not Taken is a photo series that explores physical and cultural displacement, and within this, the developments of place itself. Using the contents of the cities that Chagas has inhabited, the photographic series presents discarded items of living, each against its found or newly located backdrop.
These photographs have been constructed and taken within cities in England, Wales and Angola; in this exhibition there is no wall text or visual indication of which city each image is from. The uniformity of their urban residential backdrops is prominent: painted breezeblock, red brick and pebbledash form a mostly monotonous background for these objects that dot the streets. Amongst the muted patterns, the detritus is often the only glimpse of colour, interrupting but ultimately blending into the city: the drip of coffee in a discarded paper cup continues a crack in the paint, whilst a rolled carpet echoes a paint line on a brick wall. Recurrent geometric mirroring shows a considered photographic approach towards the original thoughtless action.
This series spawned from the artist’s interest in the culture of disposability, and his hometown’s growing consumerism in the face of its ongoing economic growth. Having grown up in a culture where everything was re-used or repurposed, these found objects, ranging from everyday litter to dumped household goods, were of prominence to Chagas – and are seemingly recurrent to each city in which he has lived. Now useless in their original capacity, these items became repurposed in his part-fabricated compositions, sitting somewhere between still life and documentation.
In their relocation and signification of presence, the objects do occasionally echo human movement and form. Thankfully, however, these are not poignant or didactic images: the artist touches upon ideas of the “readymade” in photography, and the humour within the original concept is embraced. A toilet bowl is aligned to a no parking sign on a pole; in another image the cracked tiles behind an empty, bottom-heavy beer bottle recall a burst of champagne. Whilst their presence on the street is inappropriate, their visual echoes are often even more so – not so much a disapproval of their being than an exploration of their new, albeit limited, possibility.
The dumped items indicate a lack of connection to the physical space, becoming apathetic and “private” fixtures in public settings. At the same time these objects are increasingly removed from the presence that set them there, “one step along” in their re-placement and use as imagery. Alongside the cracked walls and petered yellow lines these items become part of the street itself – the smeared fingerprints on the wall of one image are an unexpected direct mark of human presence.
This distinction of hand marking and things remaining seems to echo how these images don’t necessarily evidence a knowing human hand; that as photography the series sits as another kind of interceptive physical offering. Found Not Taken holds no allegiance to “true” representational documentation, or to any notions of an artist’s presence through composition. The series sits as a spectrum across the two, diminishing the worth of both concepts in equal measure.
-reviewed by Dorothy Hunter
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