Edson Chagas: Factory of Disposable Feelings
STEVENSON, Cape Town, South Africa04 Jul 2019 - 10 Aug 2019
STEVENSON introduces ‘Factory of Disposable Feelings’, a new photographic series by Edson Chagas.
In a shift from the nomadism of Chagas’ acclaimed series Found Not Taken, Factory of Disposable Feelings offers a meditation on place through a sustained interaction with a singular factory in the Angolan capital of Luanda. For Chagas, the project exists as a poetic exploration rather than a documentary one. Images from the interior, exterior and perimeter of this industrial plant, established at the height of Portuguese colonisation, suggest different ways of approaching history, the present and the passage of time that connects them.
During its history, the factory manufactured textiles including bedsheets, diapers and military uniforms. Now under the leadership of a son of the original owner, the parts of the factory which are not disused or abandoned are being reoriented towards the manufacture of agricultural implements. According to Chagas, the title of the exhibition arose from his conversations with people who worked at the factory when it was still open, managing the machines, and with others who continued after it closed, working as security guards. He observes:
There’s something in looking at a phenomenon from a removed perspective, seeing people and realising that this place was once integral to their lives – and then suddenly it breaks up into objects and pieces. From the passion these people had when they were telling their stories I could sense that this was a space where feelings are disposable. It felt like a place where a lot of things were left behind but still hold a story of some sort – one I could not see but only feel. Now it’s a question of anticipating what the future holds. There is this passage of time that is interesting … It exists as an archive of what happened, though we don’t quite know what.
Vandalised danger signs, eroded paint in crepuscular formations and discarded materials allude to tidal movements in economies, the aspirations of industry and changes in definitions of productivity. Debris is captured as matter from the past and simultaneously the embodiment of an urgent present.
Chagas continues: ‘For me, with photography you’re always in the present. Even if it involves something from the past, when you look at it, it is or it feels as if it’s being seen for the first time.
Chagas, recipient of an African Art Award from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in 2018, is currently exhibiting in Mask: The Art of Transformation at Kunstmuseum Bonn and Sixth Nature, part of the Porto Photography Biennial. This is his second solo exhibition at Stevenson.
The exhibition opens on Thursday 4 July, 6 to 8pm.