12 February 2021

We are delighted to invite with you to the virtual launch & program of talks around the exhibition What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase, at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, on February 17 & 18 at 18:00.
To attend the virtual launch, email rsvp@culturecoventry.com.
Once you have confirmed your attendance you will be sent a link to join the ZOOM event. To book the talks on the 17th Feb and 17th Mar, please click on each date and register for the event. This is the most comprehensive exhibition of this work to date, with over 100 artworks, film & photo-installation and the first in a worldwide tour which will also be visiting the Geneva Photography Centre (13 Oct ’21 – 09 Jan 2022), the Modern and Contemporary Art Museum Lisbon and the Museum of Contemporary Art, London.
What Photography & Incarceration have in Common with an Empty Vase results from a collaboration with inmates, incarcerated in the West Midlands, their families and a myriad of other individuals and community groups in the region.
It is a multifaceted body of work, developed from a commission with GRAIN Projects, where the artist uses the social context of incarceration as a starting point. Martins explores the philosophical concept of absence, and addresses a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect. 
By using image and text, new and historical photography, evidence and fiction, Martins’ work proposes to scrutinise how one deals with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation through incarceration and lockdown. The project seeks to answer; How does one represent a subject that eludes visualization, that is absent or hidden from view? How can documentary photography, in an era of fake news, best acknowledge the imaginative and fictional dimension of our relation to photographs? 
By giving a voice to inmates and their families and addressing prison as a set of social relations rather than a physical space, Martins’ work proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration and confinement. The project thus wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose, Martins argues, is to confirm the already held opinions within dominant ideology about crime & punishment: violence, drugs, criminality, race.    
A short film of the exhibition can be viewed here. The book of this work, by the same title, was shortlisted for the 2020 Paris Photo & Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards as well the PhotoEspaña Book Award in the best photobook of the year category.

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