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Carl Bigmore – There It Is. Take It.

 

WORDS BY HARRY FLOOK

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Carl Bigmore depicts Calfornia as a place both flourishing and on the verge of collapse, the culmination of a history dogged by disputes over our most basic resource – water. He explains that “as California increasingly struggles with drought, the population might have to shift into the Pacific Northwest.” Like in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, he portrays the human face of migration, a reference to the dustbowl era exodus that allows the images to build a narrative out of the past and predicted future of California. How then, should we perceive Bigmore's series? As a reminder, or a warning?

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Here, we see water presented as sacred. First, bottled and safeguarded. Next, as a river framed by the landscape. Then written on the back of a Chevrolet in the plea "pray for miracle, heavenly rain”.

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The series exudes americanness. Idyllic Californian landscapes would set a positive tone if stripped of the ominous subtexts that provide a backdrop to this series. Spontaneous, overtly positive images such as the boy behind water, are punctuated with scenes of an emerging dustbowl, shaking the viewer back into the stark reality that the population grapple with.

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For me, the themes are perfectly distilled in the arid Californian scene that frames a painted waterfall, below which a water container is hung. At once an apt metaphor and yet strikingly real.

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Bigmore explains that "America was so rich in resources that it wasn’t conceivable for them to run out”, but that “we have seen how quickly human activity can completely change a landscape”. He examines this seemingly cyclical narrative, using the local degradation of an area into drought as a way of alluding to a larger and more complex issue, “the corrosion of the American dream and the people this is impacting upon.”

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Max Ferguson