Curated by Janis Jefferies and Emma Tarlo. In the Constance Howard Gallery - Deptford Town Hall, basement. All welcome, free entry.
A preoccupation with hidden labour links the work of Janis Jefferies and Emma Tarlo. Taking us backstage to cloth factories in China and hair workshops in India and Myanmar, they draw attention to working landscapes in which materials, fibres and machines take on haunting proportions. Their photographs invite us to recognise connections that are often obscured between the lives of workers in Asia and the material products that end up in our high-streets and homes.
Janis Jefferies presents the photographic series, Weaving and We (2013), depicting workers at textile factories in and around Hangzhou. The photographs give a partial glimpse into the world behind the machinery, revealing scenes of the process of workers’ labour. We are accustomed to seeing the goods they produce all around us, but rarely do we see them - the makers. Jefferies experiments with techniques of ‘estrangement’ to render the photographic image more affective/ effective than the documentary images we are accustomed to.
Emma Tarlo’s series, Combings – how many heads? how many hairs? how many hands? (2018), reveals the hidden topography of labour that lies concealed within a single packet of hair extensions purchased in a shop in Finsbury Park, North London. Hair is something we think we know. Growing spontaneously from our heads, demanding attention throughout our lives, it is intrinsically bound up with identity and belonging. But it is also a commodity in a billion dollar global market for wigs and extensions. Tarlo’s photographs capture hair in limbo after it has become disconnected from heads across Asia but before it becomes attached to new heads in Europe, Africa or the United States. They confront us with hair in all its rawness and invite us to contemplate both the ingenuity and the cruelty of global connection.
Janis Jefferies is an artist, writer and curator, Professor of Visual Arts and Research, and Research Fellow at the Constance Howard Gallery, which she founded. She is a pioneer in the field of contemporary textiles within visual and material culture on the international stage, and has exhibited and published widely.
Emma Tarlo is a Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths and author of the book, Entanglement: The Secret Lives of Hair, winner of the 2017 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing. The photographs were taken during three years of research on hair supported by the Leverhulme Trust.
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