Now You See Us

Had a wee visit to Belfast Exposed this afternoon, it has been much too long. I went to discuss the possible use of some images from their archive for a Culture Night event that is slowly gathering in the dark cold chasms of my mind while it tries to focus on big important things like job applications and peer reviewed journal articles.  Anyway, after snooping around on the Gateways computer (a device full of digitized photographs that may cause you to lose many hours from your life - once you pop you can't stop), I delighted in viewing the Children in Need sponsored exhibition 'Now You See Us'.

I am really impressed by the quality of the images taken by the young people affiliated to the various groups BX has been working with. Thoughtful composition, content, themes, and exploitation of the technology in their hands are all on display. The selected images juxtapose youthful innocence and the beauty and oddity of nature with the harsh realities of disillusionment coupled with existing in squalor, all exacerbated by drugs and alcohol abuse. What I found most striking is the honest in explicit signposting of the fake 'group' personae we hide underneath so as not to reveal our fears and vulnerable, i.e. succumbing to fashion and trends, etc. One photograph shows a young woman in a hoodie meeting the viewer's gaze with an expression as ambiguous as Mona Lisa's. Her back is against a wall covered in bright, happy, colourful, glittery drawings. Peeking out from her side encased in a glistening grey circle art the words 'HELP ME!'. Other photos not only take advantage of the ability of top-range digital cameras to warp spatio-temporal reality, they put it to meaningful use to make the figures therein appear as blurry, spectral presences in very definite locations such as streets and church interiors. They are there but not quite there. We see them, but we do not quite see them.

I would urge anyone who can make it to BX to check out these beautifully produced snapshots of teenage angst and youthful joy in gallery 2 on the first floor. Anthony Haughey's 'Settlement' exhibition in the ground floor main gallery is also worth a snoop round if you are interested in architecture and the Irish economy. Quite a few architectural projects have been presented by some Belfast galleries in recent years, e.g. Golden Thread, Catalyst Arts, and of course Place. With so many wasted public and private spaces, it is healthy to see commentary and ideas about what can be done, even if these go unfulfilled due to funding issues. Haughey's photographic and sculptural installations focus on similar issues and potential solutions in urban centres and suburban 'ghost estates'. The photographs of abandoned housing estates were taken between sunset and sunrise, meaning the types of lighting somehow draw attention to the buildings' incongruity against the landscape. More info at

So that was my brief Friday adventure. Back to the applications and articles...


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