›The Red House‹
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin
MusČe de l'ElysČe
CH . Lausanne, 27 Jun - 25 Oct 2009
 

In 2009, the MusČe de l'ElysČe acquired The Red House, a portfolio by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, published as a limited edition by Steidl. The photographs present no other visual information than the graffiti found on the walls of the "Red House", the name given to the prison and torture center run by Saddam Hussein's Baath party in Sulaymaniyah, Iraki Kurdistan, 330 kilometres from Baghdad. For numerous Kurdish prisoners, the walls of the cells were their only means of expression. The variety of graffiti demonstrates a creativity expressed through drawing rather than writing. We share a certain intimacy with these prisoners, as they register their hopes and fears; it is as if these drawings are tiny windows looking out onto freedom. We also sense the survival instinct of these isolated and oppressed souls, who grasped at any means to bear witness, or perhaps fight excruciating boredom. Broomberg and Chanarin, who visited the prison in 2006, chose to isolate the graffiti completely, deliberately leaving the larger context out of the field of vision. The photographs focus exclusively on the graffiti. The traces left by the prisoners are perhaps more telling than scenes of actual prison activity would have been. Whether they are figurative or abstract, acts of resistance or pure whimsy, the drawings evoke solitude, fear, boredom and longing. They are moving witnesses to the suffering of human beings imprisoned in atrocious conditions under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Adam Broomberg (South Africa, 1970) and Oliver Chanarin (England, 1971) have collaborated for more than ten years to create a unique work. Based in London, they have recently worked for the magazine Colors. Their work has been exhibited at the Hasselblad Center, G^teborg, Sweden; the Photographer's Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, London; as well as the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. The artists also have several books to their names: Trust (2000), Ghetto (2003), Mr. Mkhize's Portrait (2004), Chicago (2006), and Fig. (2007). Broomberg and Chanarin teach photography in London and have received several prizes, including the Vic Odden Award from the Royal Photographic Society.

 

 

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