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  • John McKiernan

Innovation Box: Heather Agyepong

Ethics of Planned Obsolescence Embedded in Digital Commodities

Until 12th October 2016

Heather Agyepong is a visual artist & performer who lives and works in London.

Images exhibited are from ‘The Gaze on Agbogbloshie: The misrepresentation of West Africa as dystopia’* and form part of a larger series on photographs. It is at this point there is clear divergence from Heather’s original project.

This exhibition begins the Innovation Box intervention here in a grade II listed phone box on Bedford Row.

The intervention examines how we as a society consider innovation. The rational of exhibiting these pictures at the beginning of the intervention is two fold:

  1. To start where most innovations end-up and,

  2. For continuity from the Waste.Agency (2014-15), Platform-7’s last major intervention in the City of London exploring how we have built an economy on consumption and wastefulness.

The images capture the numerous complexities of our world and our understanding of the word ‘innovation’.

The work will constantly change and evolve. Platform-7 interventions do not start out with a set agenda; the course of the conversation is very much set by the reaction to the work and how this stimulates artists and other practitioners to respond.

* The Gaze on Agbogbloshie: The misrepresentation of West Africa as dystopia intends to explore the misrepresentation of Agbogbloshie and the resulting socio-economic reality. Agbogbloshie is portrayed as the continent’s largest electrical wasteland; in truth it is a functional, profit-making recycling network. The conditions are harsh and pollution is rife but its inhabitants manage to live, work and save money for their families. In the last decade, Agbogbloshie has received an influx of western media attention depicting the displaced African as an aesthetic. The area receives regular visits from European journalists, academic researchers and photographers who frame their works according to a historical distortion of the African identity. The young boys who reside on the site are the most exploited group in the informal hierarchy of the recyclers. Images, interviews and even blood samples have been obtained in exchange for help. However, the majority of these researchers do not return or contact the boys after the data has been collected. The alienation felt by the boys is cultivated through these researchers who present the cultural baggage of European idealism within their projects. Through an inquest of interviews, visual methodology and fieldwork, this exposition has attempted to challenge these misrepresentations. The western gaze, that which perpetuates the archetype of Agbogbloshie as a dystopia, has overridden the ethics of planned obsolescence embedded in digital commodities. The work intends to exaggerate these discrepancies creating an embellishment of the visual aesthetic whilst confronting our obsession with African poverty.

Nominated for Prix Pictet award, Space.

John McKiernan ©2016

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