Belfast Exposed


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25th Sep - 7th Oct

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21st May - 22nd May

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Islands & Myths

Gallery 1

29th Jun 2018 to 18th Aug 2018

About The Exhibition

Belfast Exposed is delighted to announce its major summer group exhibition Islands & Myths. This fresh, immersive show brings together three international rising stars of contemporary photography: Sanne De Wilde, Nicholas Muellner and Jon Tonks – each using the medium to present stories and investigations into unique and remote communities on far away islands. Each of the three bodies of work on display tread the lines between fact and fiction, with the lines at times being deliberately blurred. The exhibition emphasises the power of photography as a compelling tool for imaginative and creative storytelling, through compelling and immersive installations.

The Island of the Colorblind by Sanne De Wilde tells the story of Pingelap and Pohnpei, islands in the Pacific where there is an extraordinarily high percentage of achrompatopsia (complete colour-blindness) amongst communities living there. In the late eighteenth century, a catastrophic typhoon swept over Pingelap. One of the survivors, the king, carries the rare achromatopsia-gen, and as years passed by, the hereditary condition affected many of the islanders. Presented at Belfast Exposed as a series of infrared and black & white photographs alongside an interactive installation where visitors are invited to paint onto photographic images under a specially designed lighting and sound system, ‘The Island of the Colorblind’ explores the nature of the condition and the way in which it affects vision, individual experience, and colour-disorientation.

Nicholas Muellner’s 2017 image-text book In Most Tides an Island is at once a glimpse into contemporary post-Soviet queer life, a meditation on solitude and desire, and an inquiry into the nature of photography and poetry in a contemporary world consumed by cruelty, longing, resignation and hope. Muellner intertwines image and language, seeking to question the fundamental nature of documentary and metaphor, the emotional functions of photography, and the always animate but unbridgeable space between words and pictures. Shot along Baltic, Carribbean and the Black Sea coastlines, distant landscapes meet, juxtaposed with a mysterious stream of faceless but expressive online profile pictures. This work emerged from two very different impulses: to witness the lives of closeted gay men in provincial Russia, and to compose the gothic tale of a solitary woman on a remote tropical island. Along the way, these disparate pursuits – one based on documentation, the other on invention – unexpectedly converged. The series transports the viewer through shifting tableaux of exile and solitude in a digital age.

Jon Tonks first travelled to Vanuatu in the South Pacific in 2014 with collaborator and writer Christopher Lord, and this new series Blong seeks to understand the archipelago’s so-called ‘Cargo Cults’. Once a year, rituals take place in Vanuatu in which locals don military fatigues, carve muskets out of bamboo, and march to salute the American flag in the belief that a messianic American solider named John Frum will return with a ‘cargo’ of riches and herald a return to traditional customs untouched by colonial or missionary interference. In the course of their research, the pair learned of a handful of individuals who travel from America and Europe claiming to be fulfilment of this prophecy. This is an entrenched phenomenon with numerous cases stretching back through the twentieth century. In addition to documenting the belief systems found in Vanuatu, the project follows the stories of these individuals – their banal lives at home often contrast with the imagined worlds they conjure as messiahs and kings on these tropical islands in the South Seas. ‘Blong’ brings together photographs, archival imagery, video and objects gathered over four years. It is an attempt to understand the origins of Vanuatu’s Cargo Cults by listening to the accounts of the faithful. The project also interrogates an obscure, surreal fantasy that’s deeply knit in the Western imagination – that of the castaway, lost and adrift from a corrupt world, who washes up on an idyllic island far from home only to be welcomed as a god.

The Artists

Sanne De Wilde Nicholas Muellner Jon Tonks


Artist Talk with Sanne de Wilde

Thursday 28 June | 5:30pm | Belfast Exposed

Exhibition Preview

Thursday 28 June | 6-9pm | Belfast Exposed

Artist Talk with Jon Tonks

Friday 29 June | 1pm | Belfast Exposed

Late Night Art

Thursday 5 July | 6-9pm | Belfast Exposed

Curator Tour

Thursday 5 July | 6:30pm | Belfast Exposed

Late Night Art

Thursday 2 August | 6-9pm | Belfast Exposed

Curator Tour

Thursday 2 August | 6:30pm | Belfast Exposed


Islands & Myths is generously supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.