Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Large-scale images explore shipping industry’s role in exploitation of labour
Now that capitalism is a sinking ship with assorted captains scrambling for the lifeboats, Allan Sekula’s ongoing photographic exploration of globalisation in motion is the perfect metaphor for a world all at sea. This most recent series by the Pennsylvania-born documentarist forms the second part of Stills’ Social Documents programme, trailing Glasgow and Edinburgh screenings of his new film, The Forgotten Space, en route.
The large-scale colour images here chart the voyage of the Global Mariner, a cargo vessel carrying, not imported produce from exotic lands to be marked up in price, but a touring exhibition outlining the shipping industry’s crucial role in exploitation of labour. The activists manning the vessel are captured by Sekula with a casual dignity in snapshot-like fashion against the vivid seascape behind, with workers caught unposed and in motion. Throughout the gallery is a series of seafaring souvenirs that both kowtow to the clichés of salty old seadogs as well as navigating this most romanticised of industry’s hidden history. For every shipyard closed, every docker sacked and every slave transported, Sekula has made a crucial voyage.
Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 18 Mar