Case Study 1.1: Dzhangal – Gideon Mendel

 

Looking at Mendel’s work, I cannot help thinking about Ishiuchi Miyako and her work Hiroshima from a few years before. I have to admit, the work by Ishiuchi Miyako had more impact on me. Is it perhaps this wandering thought alone that already reduces the impact and engagement with Mendel’s work; is the use of the same method or seeing the same principle less meaningful the second time? Is there some numbness on the refugee problem?

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The moral and ethic bias by the photographer remains an issue, whatever method used. The Hiroshima images powerfully depict an intense closeness to the smell of burned flesh, the panic and death. Does avoiding the victims in the image bring relief to the photographer’s moral discrepancies and does the effect the images have on the viewer change, are the victims better served by leaving them out and replacing them by their belongings? It seems difficult to create images for others’ perception, not intrinsically as a form of expression by the creator, ‘ethical marketing’ comes to mind. Is the photographer not just the scorpion on the back of the frog, in the end, he needs to photograph, its only his nature, the frog’s life is collateral, so is the subject, or is it object?

As visual experience the use of objects seems more elegant and less disturbing, less a risk, then by displaying the people involved but does it result in the same impact, what is the difference, except assumed anonymity (in case of the jungle around Calais, the camps where monitored 24/7 by security cameras of the authority, even video drones where employed.) In more situations, victims, especially refugees, often strongly oppose being photographed, whatever the photographer has in mind as an undoubtedly well-intended cause. The individual is usually not served by being photographed. An article The Calais Jungle: Mediations of home by Mireille Rosello, (Rosello, 2016) addresses the concept “home” into this discussion. Mendez’s depiction of homely objects might fit in this line of thought; it touches the idea of a right of living, the plight of care, what is home and country, when is one “home” in this context. Who owns the right of “home” and was the jungle “home” of many?

In the end, the Jungle is no longer; Brexit and COVID-19, increased nationalistic, protectionistic thoughts on both sides of the canal and around the world, gave politics new and enhanced room to enforce their populist ideas using symbolic measurements for a global humanitarian problem; by far it seems a sustainable solution if there is any.

 

Bibliography

Dearden, L. (2016). Drones deployed to keep migrants and refugees out of Channel Tunnel amid warnings of a post-Brexit surge. The Independent. [online] 28 Jun. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/drones-deployed-channel-tunnel-eurotunnel-stop-migrants-refugees-warnings-post-brexit-surge-a7107186.html [Accessed 24 May 2020].

Gideonmendel.com. (2016a). Art Historian Text  – Gideon Mendel. [online] Available at: http://gideonmendel.com/art-historian-text/ [Accessed 20 May 2020].

Gideonmendel.com. (2016b). Art Historian Text  – Gideon Mendel. [online] Available at: http://gideonmendel.com/art-historian-text/ [Accessed 20 May 2020].

Mendel, G. (2017). Dzhangal-The Act of Collecting. [online] Vimeo. Available at: https://vimeo.com/213213157 [Accessed 20 May 2020].

Mendel, G. (n.d.). Dzhangal – Gideon Mendel. [online] Available at: http://gideonmendel.com/dzhangal/ [Accessed 18 May 2020].

Rosello, M. (2016). The Calais Jungle: Mediations of home. NECSUS, [online] 5. Available at: https://dare.uva.nl/search?identifier=90cc27ac-d04d-44e9-98bf-848cce8bd18b [Accessed 24 May 2020].