Edge Hill University’s Arts Centre is showcasing photojournalist Si Barber’s poignant insight into the hardships faced by British people in the wake of the global financial crisis.
The Big Society features a moving portrayal of pervasive despondence juxtaposed with a depiction of ‘very British resilience’ in the face of widespread impoverishment and is, in Si’s words, a document of “people negotiating their way through the rubble and the chaos. Not the movers or the shakers, but those surviving the will of the powerful”.
The images include derelict and possessed homes, a child car boot sale money lender, a military parade and supermarket staff undertaking a motivation exercise.
The project was inspired by the 2010 general election and the creation of the coalition government’s flagship policy of the same name as the exhibition, which purported to ‘take power away from politicians and give it to people’. It prompted Si to look much deeper into the contrast between political rhetoric and the genuine experiences of ordinary people all around Britain.
Si, who is based in Norfolk, said: “I got the title when David Cameron was describing the way he wanted to reshape Britain. I found his nostalgia for the certainties of his privileged upbringing quite sinister really. It reminded me of an Enid Blyton story.”
The work was previously exhibited at Liverpool’s Look11 Photography Festival and Bank Street Arts in Sheffield, at around the time when the government’s overt use of the phrase the ‘Big Society’ was phased out. However, this apparent shift in attitude only served to drive the project further, pushing Si closer to the edges of modern society and allowing him to capture the true magnitude of the struggles endured by those more vulnerable than others.
Si Barber will also deliver a talk on his project on Thursday 12th December in Edge Hill’s Creative Edge building on the Ormskirk Campus.
Also showing at the Arts Centre is a combined work of poetry and photography by an artist-photographer-novelist collective.
Here, again by Angelina Ayers, Andrew Conroy and Thomas Mann features a poem in five short, three-lined sections in sequence with a series of black and white minimalist photographs to create a captivating narrative.
Viewers are offered a window-like insight into a still world, as the project explores the relationship between visual art and text. The two are combined to create a ‘partial narrative glimpsed from the corner of the eye’.
The exhibitions have been particularly well received at Edge Hill since opening on 18th November. Joan Steele, the University’s Exhibition Curator, commented: “We hope the exhibitions we show in the Arts Centre give the viewer not only a pleasingly aesthetic visual experience but also a thought-provoking deeper one, asking us, as viewers, what we see beyond the image. These current exhibitions are a great example of this.”
Admission to The Big Society and Here, again is free and both will run until Friday 13th December. For more information, visit the Arts Centre website at www.edgehill.ac.uk/artscentre.