Burke + Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan
September 10 - November 12, 2011
Gallery Luisotti is pleased to announce Simon Norfolk’s third solo exhibition at the gallery, Burke + Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan. Recently exhibited in an acclaimed presentation at the Tate Modern in 2011, Burke + Norfolk is a collaboration in spirit between Norfolk and the 19th Century Irish photographer John Burke (1843-1900), who captured images of the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-1880. A documentary video produced by Norfolk will be played throughout the gallery exhibition. Both elements join to mark the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and the beginning of the Afghanistan war.
John Burke, a trained apothecary stationed in India with the Royal Engineers, was originally denied a request to be an official photographer with the British Army during the incursion of the Anglo-Afghan war. Financing his own way with sales from photographs depicting the life of British soldiers amongst the native Indians, Burke went on to take some of the first photographs depicting the landscape, the battlefields, and the daily lives of the indigenous people of the Afghani conflict areas. Norfolk’s images, executed in the winter of 2010-2011, are a redress of the themes of imperialist intrusion that Burke first produced over a century ago, bridging a thread of historical mistakes untenable then as it is now.
Seeking out the original locations of where Burke sourced his images, Norfolk’s new Afghanistan works show the pratfalls of defending a flawed position of contemporary politics: the United States-led, multinational mismanagement of the war against terror. Norfolk’s images are photographic indictments of the folly borne from such first world moralism, symbolized in the remains of the war-ravaged Afghanistan. Depicting scenes of bombed building, military personnel, and fractured communities in balance with contemporary images of wedding halls and internet cafes around Kabul and Helmand, the implication is that this particularly duplicitous war is one of a colonial siege, serving only to further fracture an already marginalized, developing country. Like Burke’s documents of a war that ultimately produced no long-lasting gain for Britain, Norfolk’s images of a scarred, contemporary Afghanistan predicts a similar futility in the near distance – regardless of the nearly one trillion U.S. dollars spent in waste of efforts.