Initially exhibited at Friese-Greene Gallery, Brighton, UK, 29th Oct. to 14th Nov. 2010
then selected for Les Recontres D'Arles Photographie, France, 4th Jul. to 18th Sep. 2011
and nominated for The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2012, the exhibition is now
touring. It appeared as a solo show in Macclesfield, then Lincoln, UK and in Cork City,
Ireland in 2012 and is touring also as part of From Here On, most recently at Arts Santa
Mónica, Barcelona. The original catalogue which was included as part of Martin Parr's
Best Books 2010 is available here: Photo-Books
Contra-Invention is an exhibition of the photographs Traffic Wardens (correctly termed Civil Enforcement Officers and amusingly abbreviated to CEOs) take in one British town as proof of unlawful parking there. The artist discovered that these images, of other people’s illegally parked cars, were easy to obtain and download from the local council’s system. Note: since the project in 2010 the system has been changed: art has an impact! Interestingly by default embedded in the downloaded image files is information such as camera type, shutter speed, aperture and more, exactly the kinds of data certain photography geeks love to keep. In addition, due to lack of expertise as photographers (or with the laws of physics presumably) CEOs occasionally capture themselves in reflection in their own pictures. Lastly it was possible for the artist to manoeuvre himself into the photographs by following warden’s around and waiting for the famous ‘decisive moment’. Lots of jokes and puns here: this is an exhibition of Fine Art etc. but more seriously questions are raised about the actual quality or significance of the images, if blown up and presented differently can these be viewed in relation to art/painting history?, who is the author?, is this political art?, what about cars as subject matter?.
Thanks for dedicated ‘co-ration’ and text writing to Huw Bartlett, to Hito Steyerl for her influential essay In Defence of Poor Images, to Vanessa Jones at Freese-Green Gallery and finally much gratitude is owed (for their unwitting generosity) to the Traffic Wardens of Brighton numbers 114, 206, 222, 304, 364, 437, 478, 583, 607, 625, 639, 647, 654, 660, 669, 687, 690, 697, 709, 731, 732 and 735.
"Contra-invention represents the consolidation of two years of investigation into the photography of Traffic Wardens (correctly termed Civil Enforcement Officers) in the Brighton area. Each time a fine is issued, a number of photographs, Contravention Images, are taken as evidence of illegal parking. As it turns out it is easy (currently) to obtain these images by recording only two items of information from the parking ticket itself. I have been accumulating these photographs and generally recording, documenting and studying the activities of Traffic Wardens in the Brighton area.
Unquestionably cars and those who operate around them are a significant, and oddly overlooked, aspect of the contemporary landscape. A cross of street photography with vernacular concepts, the exhibition is not an attempt to show off all the outcomes from the investigation described, though the catalogues produced for it do document the activity more comprehensively. Presentation in terms of certain typical entertainment values has been avoided. Instead Contra-invention is an attempt to find beauty amidst the clutter, to locate painterly history say in modern low-tech functional photography and to demonstrate what is laudable in the incidental. “Poor images” are offered up here as something which can be simultaneously jokey and monumental.
• Incidences of Traffic Wardens caught in reflection on their own photographs
• (4) incidences of the artist Mocksim caught in their photographs
• Night shots deemed aesthetically pleasing (and enlarged to the scale of a real car)
• Detailed data about every picture obtained: shutter speed, aperture etc.
• Catalogues documenting the whole process, with further street photos of Wardens in action"