Adrian Davies’ work reflects on global connectivity. His exhibition at A Small View presents micro and macro visions of Hong Kong – here he talks to LOOK17 about photographing as a returning visitor and the relationship of utopian city skyline images to those captured on the ground.
The work was made during a number of visits to Hong Kong, also Shanghai and cities in parts of East Asia. I’m looking at these cities that are evolving growing, changing. I was interested in the micro – and the overview. Within the exhibition there are relationships between images – city views that are quite small so that details are lost. They become like model places (there is actually a view included in the exhibition of a model view of Shanghai). This is the visualised expectation of a city, which is quite futuristic looking. I show these with large scale prints of what I call the ‘veins’ of the city, power cables, pipes – the infrastructure of the city. I’m interested in the relationship between how these grow outside of that utopian vision of a city – that these buildings that are monumental from a distance, have all these wires and cables going in to support all of that growth. I’m playing with the relationship between what cities could be – the architectural plan, and then this free form organic growth.
Could you tell us a bit about when you visited what was your reason for being there, what lead you to start taking those photographs, was it part of a bigger series? Or something standalone whilst you were visitor to a new city?
I was fortunate to be in a position where I was visiting a number of cities over a couple of years, consecutively, so I was able to make links between places having been to Shanghai after Hong Kong, Thailand, Tokyo – a whole series of visits that enabled me to think about making work that I could collate together, looking for similarities and also looking for differences, thinking about that relationship with what matters here in the UK. But it was the second time of going back to some of these cities that enabled a different view. There was a familiarity. And because I’d already taken photographs there, it meant that I was quite comfortable shooting and making connections between what I’d already shot.
The larger scale images in the exhibition reveal an ad hoc network of spliced cables and trunking reaching over doorways or between lush greenery. To what extent are you thinking about global or digital connectivity and exchange between places?
That’s exactly it – those connections between the cities, I’m looking for similarities, so I was looking for connections. And I think that organic nature – in the way those larger scale images depict those things it looks like it could be a plant blossoming, that organic growth, it goes across all of those photographs so they are interrelated. So those cables connect to other cables, its that idea – there’s a metaphor there of the links between images and cities.
It seems that where you are in the world is quite important – for example, the expectation might be from somewhere far away, or the photograph within a place, how does that relate to that idea of connectivity, where you can be somewhere and not be somewhere at the same time? And how the internet creates expectations of a place compared to being there in the very real and intimate way of actually being there and holding something.
I’ve been exploring how important is it to be in a location in other projects – the way that you experience or view something, so those cityscapes, there is no experience in those images. Because they are quite distance almost like they could have been photographed aerially, there’s no connection with the city, whereas these other images, they’re shot with flash, its almost like catching the moment of the experience of noticing and trying to understand something. So for me that experience of photographing is about me responding, and thinking later how they connect.
The inversion of scale is quite interesting in that respect.
It’s how I respond to that experience, and I think the details are what you take away. I think about the views from a plane, and how I recognised the skylines, particularly with Honk Kong when it’s at night and the buildings were all lit up, there are lots of touristy images of that view – that was already in my mind. How do the predetermined images I have in my mind of these places form what I expect from the cities compared to my experience of actually being there?
The future city and the cabling and connectivity that represents something futuristic or utopian actually looks archaic and chaotic
That was what excited me about going to those mega cities. I look at those cities – they’re cities with a lot of growth that are changing quite rapidly – but that makes them quite exciting – that they are the future. The skylines change through growth, buildings becoming bigger and bigger, which developing city is going to build the biggest skyscraper – how that view, that utopian architectural plan of this future city is so opposing to that reality of those infrastructures that are growing to try and cope with all that development – that’s why I got driven to photograph this series. I’d seen images of what these cities look like previously, but the reality of those cities is very different – the experience on the ground.
You’ve mentioned that on return visits to Hong Kong you are making connections with what you have already photographed there previously – you look out for those similar things, so its your mind (or camera) that is the link between those places, you’re relating what you see back to what you already seen. The eye instinctively looks for the familiar.
I suppose that’s what’s interesting about photography to me – that you always go back and photograph what you’ve photographed before, because you’re drawn to those things. It’s about finding what is interesting to you.
Tomorrow is the last chance to catch Adrian Davies’ work at LOOK17
LOOK17 Fringe exhibition at A Small View open Saturdays throughout #LOOK17 featuring work by Adrian Davies, Alec Aarons and Bertha Wang