Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until April 26th
'Live in Ponte', declaims the mantra on a poster depicting some glossy
urban paradise, 'and never go out.' For the 54-storey circular folly
that still towers over Johannesburg's skyline and which was originally
built in 1976 to house South Africa's white elite, alas, things didn't
quite work out like that. By the time South African photographer
Mikhael Subotsky and British artist Patrick Waterhouse came calling,
the concrete monstrosity was largely occupied by black residents who
moved in following the collapse of apartheid, although many had
subsequently been evicted by predatory property developers.
The result of Subotsky and Waterhouse's five year study in this
international collaboration between the SNPG, Le Bal, Paris and FoMu
Antwerp is an expansive piece of impressionistic photo-journalism that
combines archive and found material alongside fresh images and texts
documenting a community which survives in spite of assorted social
upheavals and financial collapses.
Portraits of residents and their apartments sit next to the detritus
found in abandoned units and news cuttings charting this
nouveau-Babel's chequered history. A startled child's face on a tatty
postcard sums things up with the caption, 'Don't let the future take
you by surprise', in this damning indictment of how the global
conspiracies of gentrification and botched attempts at social
engineering are the real things needing demolished.
The List, January 2015