One project that addresses the issues of class, gender, and geography is the series Go for Gold! (2006 – 2016), a ten-year photography project that investigates the transformation of the East London landscape in preparation for, during, and after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The overarching critique of the project is how the Olympics and Paralympics have been transformed from a sports to an economic mega-event in which urban regeneration plays a major role.
Another project that addresses the larger issues of space, class, and geography is Basement Sanctuaries. Basement Sanctuaries explores how superintendents decorate the basements of apartment buildings in Northern Manhattan, NYC, by illuminating the process of migrant adaptation to the metropolis from an intimate perspective.
Since having moved to North Carolina in 2013, I have also built race analysis into my study of space and geography. At the Hands of Persons Unknown (2013-ongoing) consists of a series of photographs, a video, and a moving lamp. With this work I explore how trees have been silent witnesses to the lynchings of women in the American South during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era. In most cases women were lynched along with their husbands, sons, or brothers. The project is inspired by the fact that my African-American husband and I would not have been able to have a relationship during that time period as miscegination was not allowed. If detected, one of us or both may have been lynched.Oppressive Architecture explores and documents the relationship between architecture and oppression in different historical moments - American slavery and German Nazism. Oppressive architectural structures are being photographed in a cross-section of places in both countries. The project examines similarities and differences in the inhumane ways that prisoners were forced to live and labor on southern plantations and in German concentration, labor, and death camps as represented by their architecture. It explores how these architectural structures continue to influence the contemporary landscape, its inhabitants, and our understanding of history. The project’s contribution is its documentation of a wide range of remaining physical structures of oppression. It also recognizes their historic value and raises questions about how architecture can be used to commemorate and reconcile a country’s past.
Plantation Still Lifes: While photographing the architectural forms at Southern plantations for the Oppressive Architecture series, I collected plant specimens - the new inhabitants of these places - and photographed them in the lighting studio. This served as a way to dislocate the specimens from their original spaces – the same that happened to the former slaves that were forced to live and labor on these plantations.
Below Forest: Below Forest is located 180 km northwest of Berlin. Shortly before the Red Army approached the concentration camp Sachsenhausen and its sub-camps, 33,000 prisoners were sent on the so-called death marches. They had to march 20-40km a day without any food or water. Who was not able to walk anymore or tried to steal food or water was shot dead. Between April 23-29, 1945, more than 16,000 prisoners camped in Below Forest before they were freed by the Allies. The video refers to the horrors of the concentration camp (black) and the unknown future (white) as either being death or freedom. The video references the importance of the forest in German culture. In particular during the Third Reich the forest was equated with harmony and therefore is in stark contrast to the way the forest is presented in the video and probably was experienced by the prisoners.
With What remains of the day – 71 Years after the End of World War II, I explore issues of memory and time. The memory of WWII in Germany is fading as people who experienced the war firsthand get older and die. Many oral histories have been recorded but once the survivors die, most of their memories will be buried with them. Yet the memory of WWII is living history because the recent arrival of refugees from the Middle East and Africa has reinvigorated important questions. Most notably: what responsibilities do Germans have based on their history?
I explore these issues by visiting places in and outside Berlin that were important for the creation of the Third Reich and for Hitler’s aims of extending the ‘Lebensraum’ for the Germans to the East, of proceeding with the ‘Endloesung’ by eliminating all Jews, and of gaining superiority over other nations. A way of showing how our memories of these places fade is by overexposing negative film for seventy-one seconds (this interval was chosen because the intervention will occur in 2016, seventy-one years after the war ended in 1945). Overexposing film means that only traces from the photographed places will be recorded, which is the same thing that happens to our memories. Our memories are fragmented and not always clear. I will also interview and portrait witnesses of the war: e.g. those who survived the Holocaust, those supporting the Nazi party, Allied soldiers.