A photography exhibition that is as vague as it sounds
If you are looking for a captivating photography experience, Broken Secrets is not for you. Yes, the photographs are nice, but that's about it. If you have a few spare minutes on your way to have a beer in the Grund, certainly go see it. But otherwise this exhibition in the Neimënster risks being a waste of time.
The exhibition is part of the PARALLEL European Photo-based Platform, which aims to foster cultural exchanges through photography. Each artist is left free to create their own work and, as a result, the exhibition shows four very different projects. How are we incarcerated, not only by what we know, but what we don’t know? How do secrets prevent freedom? asks the introduction you are invited to read before entering the exhibition.
If that sounds pretty enigmatic, the photos will give you only a slightly more tangible idea of what the organisers had in mind when setting up the exhibition.
The pictures all speak to questions of militancy, migration, oppression and victimization. Latvian-Armenian artist Georgs Avetisjans retraces his grandmother’s deportation from Latvia to northern Siberia in 1941. Through family albums, state records and archival material, he narrates the story of Igarka, a city built on the bones of Soviet prisoners where many deported Latvians once lived and died, taking their secrets to the grave.
British photographer George Selley creates a collage with excerpts of a training manual used at a US military school in Panama in 1946 where more than 60 000 soldiers were trained for future wars such as those in Korea and Vietnam. We will never know what went on behind the walls of the camp, but parts of the manual - released in 1996 - offers some insight.
To revive untold stories of the people in fishing towns along the Strait of Hormoz, Iranian photographer Negar Yaghmaian presents photographs that mirror the life and culture of a place that once was the meeting point of African, Indian and Asian maritime trade. When this tradition ceased, families and stories faded away along with it.
London-based Chinese Yuxin Jiang examines the construction of the Chinese stereotype and how it is embedded in language and pop culture, specifically through Instagram. She takes images and words posted on the platform out of their context, giving them a different meaning and allowing us to see them from a different perspective.
A common denominator then in each project is to explore the way secrets are withheld and revealed. The camera is used as a confidant to uncover hidden layers of society. While words can tell lies, photos cannot. Photos may carry secrets however, and it can take time to discover them. The exhibition does not seek to expose these secrets, but wants to get the visitor to reflect and shed light on the invisible behind the visible.
You can see the exhibition in less than 10 minutes – or decide to stay two hours. Despite the lofty ideas behind it, the exhibition’s stripped setting leaves the visitor with little guidance, resulting in an experience that I felt was lacking.