Myth, Manners and Memory
Published on 1 October 2011
An exhibition of prominent American photographers, addressing the physical and psychological landscape of the American South.
This exhibition ran between 1st October 2010 – 3rd January 2011
Curated by Photoworks in collaboration with the De La Warr Pavilion Myth, Manners and Memory: Photographers of the American South brings together artists who have, in various ways, engaged with the physical and psychological landscape of the American South and its place in our psyche. The mythology of the South has entered the popular imagination. Many artists have strived to represent the ‘Mind of the South’ in their work, and in doing so often reflected the contested cultural values of this most highly charged of American regions.
Combining historical and contemporary work, the exhibition brings together a number of prominent American photographers: Walker Evans, William Eggleston, William Christenberry, Carrie Mae Weems, Alec Soth and Susan Lipper. Their perspectives diverge, intertwine and at times collide: from indigenous views, enriched by a lifetime’s experience, to those of significant visitors who have been drawn in to consider very specific contexts at very particular moments in time.
The exhibition includes key examples of Walker Evans, whose photographs of the Southern States, made for the Farm Security Administration between 1936 and 1938, have had such a powerful resonance, not only for subsequent generations of photographers, but also in the broader popular imagination. For this exhibition Evans’s FSA photographs will provide a series of historical markers that also become points of departure.
Following on from Evans, much of the work in Myth, Manners and Memory: Photographers of the American South stems from artists’ deep investment into the particulars of place and history: from William Eggleston’s seminal colour photographs of the southern places and people, to William Christenberry’s concern with place, time and memory in Alabama, Susan Lipper’s visceral photographs from Grapevine Hollow, West Virginia, and Carrie Mae Weems’s long-standing commitment to exploring the wider experience of African Americans embedded in the history of the South. Finally the exhibition includes work from Alec Soth’s celebrated series Sleeping by the Mississippi, both a journey and a quest along the meandering symbolic artery of the South.
In all this, Myth, Manners and Memory: Photographers of the American South sets out not to define the American South, or necessarily suggest its distinctiveness – although certain social and topographic continuities will echo through its images. Rather, the exhibition explores what is perhaps indefinable, the cultural complexities and tensions, the constant but unresolved dialogues between past and present, and the varying material patterns of everyday life in the South that might, however elusively, constitute its sense of identity.
The exhibition is accompanied by an exhibition book, published by Photoworks.