Debut solo exhibition of photographic work
All that is solid melts into air. Marx
A Fish Out of Water is the debut solo exhibition of a 2 year photographic project documenting the end-of-life recycling of a 5000 ton Royal Navy Tanker, commissioned by Arts Council England and the National Glass Centre.
Ships are the workhorses of globalisation, slowly but surely transporting materials, influence and power across the globe. Built to last and to survive the rigors of a life at sea, they require huge amounts of energy and force to be dismantled at the end of their working lives.
Their structures contain vast quantities of hazardous materials that during the ship’s working life are safely contained within its walls; there to propel the ship and to protect its inhabitants. At the end of the ship's life, these materials become reanimated, problematic and dangerous. Once disturbed, the very materials that protected the lives of those at sea now become a threat to life.
Working in Collaboration with social scientist, Professor Nicky Gregson, Tim Mitchell spent 2 years observing and documenting the rigorous and problematic physical process of ‘breaking’ a ship in a country where health & safety and environmental protection are paramount. Currently, through loopholes in the law, most EU ships are broken up on the beaches of Asia at huge cost to life and surrounding environment. Why are more of our own ships not broken here in the EU? Is this even feasible?
Today, 90% of all imports are shipped, but shipping itself, like industry, has become invisible. There is a palpable and political relationship between ‘Fish Out of Water’ and the North East of England – in the UK’s 21st century economic order, where once there was manual labour, are the remaining options now recycling or redundancy, rather than new material production?
These and other questions will be raised and explored against the resonant backdrop of the River Wear, with it’s impressive cultural history still capable of influencing the present.
The exhibition here will bring together a mixture of large-scale contemporary and traditional photographic prints, physical evidence from the ship itself and an accompanying publication, together creating a broad document made up of contrasting forms and perspectives, with the intention of sparking debate and reflection upon Sunderland and the North East’s past, present and future relationship with a globalised shipping industry.
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