Edgar Martins @ Wapping Project


The Wapping Project is a unique restaurant and gallery converted from a hydraulic power station. Much of the old power machinery and equipment is still on display to show off its proud heritage and serves as the perfect space for the staging of Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins’ series of photographs entitled This Is Not A House.

The New York Times originally commissioned the photographs to reflect the subprime mortgage crisis in the US in 2007. Over two months, Martins photographed the abandoned houses of 16 states. Later Martins took the controversial decision to digitally enhance his images, yet although this has raised many questions, in my eyes it enhances the impact of the modern ruins. Many of the buildings are shown behind hauntingly dark backgrounds, given them an almost holographic effect. Buildings to shops and banks are also displayed as being rid of all doors and windows, possibly to mark their lack of purpose in a town that has been completely and utterly deserted. Others have been edited so that the backgrounds look as though they have been painted.

The bare brick walls and dim lighting of the Wapping Project add to the emptiness that these images represent. We were the only ones in the gallery, and the lack of other people adds to the ambiance, as though you were visiting the baron neighborhoods yourself. There is a speaker playing the sounds of water dripping and trains going past, but not sign of actual life, adding to the sinister nature of the neglected houses.

This show gives a startling look at a very recent event in our history. It causes you to pause for thought; the bare walls and the sounds flooded through the room forces you to think about the desolate towns left untouched by human life. While the photography is stunning, when you think about it, the subject matter really isn’t all that beautiful. This unique staging of uninhabited communities is not to be missed.

Edgar Martins – This Is Not A House is on show at the Wapping Project until 4 March 2011 and will be touring around the UK until 2013

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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