Rubber Factory is please to present an exhibition by Elliot Ross and Magna Carta.
The title “At the Gate” describes the position of millions of refugees en route to Europe fleeing violence and persecution in the Middle East, forced to languish in camps and detention centers at the continent’s periphery. In the greatest displacement of people since the Second World War, the Greek Islands have become a liminal space; a place caught between geo-political, bureaucratic and moral dilemmas; a threshold between the human and the political, the past and present—between what is lost and what is still to be attained.
Comprising a variety of media including photography and film, the works in this show are bound by their concern for the experience of refugees living in camps on the Greek Islands of Lesvos and Leros. In January 2016, two months before a joint solution between Turkey and the EU would shutter Greek camps by forcing all asylum seekers attempting “clandestine routes,” (mainly the Aegean crossing) back to Turkey, Ross and Magna Carta travelled to this informal frontier to capture the stories of those stepping through Europe’s gate.
A series of interviews and portraits present the diverse spectrum of individuals—Muslims, Christians, grandmothers, fathers, engineers, art students, athletes—who make up a humanitarian crisis often painted in broad strokes. Projected on three screens, a six-channel video projection loops and switches through interview footage shot on location, as well as scenes of the surrounding environment: a coastline littered with life preservers; the Aegean shimmering at dawn, deceptively placid. Audio recordings express the intangible, giving form to the memories, fears and hopes that now engender this landscape.
Cognizant of approaching a subject mediated by a litany of throwaway newsprint images, Ross chose to produce portraits on a Polaroid 100A. Framed individually, these thirteen images are reconstituted as objects. Here, the sense of the individual is heightened by the singular, material nature of the polaroid. Both medium and presentation seek to counter the pluralism-fatigue caused by anonymous collective terms such as “refugee,” “asylum seeker” and “migrant.”
At the same time, the fraught issue of “objectification” is addressed in parallel. Blankets collected from a Greek camp signify the material reality and lived experience of the people illustrated in this work, and by extension, the experience from which narrative and “content” is created. This reflexive thread runs throughout; the inclusion of ephemera such as polaroid composites and Ross’s journal deconstruct the art-making process and question where it intersects with documentation. Specifically, the historical emphasis on the artifact, the document, and the author’s voice.
This inaugural exhibition at Rubber Factory furthers Ross’s ongoing exploration of the material and immaterial conditions that inflect, alter or color the experience of isolated communities. Recent projects have focused on the remote mining township of Coober Pedy in the Australian Outback, rural farming communities in the American West, the Amazigh communities of the Atlas Mountains, and access and infrastructure in Southeast Haiti.
Elliot Ross is a New York City based photographer with a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been widely exhibited and published, with notable recent exhibitions including Cycle (2016) at California Institute of Integral Studies, a group show exploring the complex intersections between and among land, resources, and water, curated by Tomiko Jones; and Critical Mass at Fotofestiwal Lodz 2016, Łódź, Poland. His work has been reproduced in publications such as National Geographic Magazine, Vice, The Guardian and the The Atlantic, among others.
Magna Carta is creative firm that specializes in narrative, documentary and interactive projects. It’s team of award-winning filmmakers and visual artists produce visual stories around the world. Their work has been featured by Huffington Post, Time.com and Wired.
Projections and soundscape are excerpts from Refuge, a moving picture documentary of human stories from the European refugee crisis, focused on humanity and hope. Creators: Matthew K. Firpo, Matteo Zevi, Jake Saner Rosanna Bach, Stephen Michael Simon, Haris Katsigiannis and Maximilian Guen.