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The Parasitical Historiography of Ann Shelton’s Photography

Anniversary, “We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity” Neil Roberts 1982, 2013. Eight pigment prints, 630 × 782 mm each.

Stephen Turner, 2015
Journal Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art Volume 15, 2015 - Issue 1

Through large-scale photographic works and accompanying publications, the New Zealand artist Ann Shelton investigates discursive silences and presents displaced narratives. These bespeak little-known histories, ‘embedded in place and located in archival collections’. Recent works include In a Forest (2005 ongoing), which retraces the diaspora of the ‘Hitler oaks’ that grew worldwide from the saplings given to medallists at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and City of Gold and Lead (2013), which recalls the New Zealand Government’s secretive Wanganui computer and the death of a lone protestor at the facility in 1982 due to the explosion of a self-made bomb. In common with other photographic artists who work at the intersection of histories, discourses and sites, such as Mark Adams in New Zealand and Ricky Maynard in Australia, or Tayrn Simon and Joel Sternfield internationally, Shelton’s practice makes us think about what is remembered, how memories are reported and by whom, and by what means they are recorded. Her imagery, which is hyper-real at times and non-real at others, also causes us consider the media of remembrance, making us conscious of the fact that memory is necessarily mediated by material inscription. Drawing on traditions of documentary photography and conceptual modes of image-making, Shelton’s photography typically enacts reflexivity about media and prompts re-evaluation of her subjects through doubled or inverted images, which question a monocular or more singular vision.

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