Arts

Belfast Exposed hosts Dana Lixenberg photos depicting life and death in LA

The work of Dutch photographer and film maker Dana Lixenberg that highlights the misrepresentation of those living in housing projects in America is being shown in Belfast Exposed Gallery.

Tony, 1993, a photograph by Dana Lixenberg that features in her exhibition Imperial Courts 1993-2015 at Belfast Exposed
 
Kelly McAllister

THE Belfast Exposed photographic gallery is currently hosting an exhibition by New York and Amsterdam-based Dana Lixenberg that features a series of images documenting life in a public housing development in Los Angeles over more than two decades.

The Dutch photographer’s work, which intentionally avoids stereotypical representations of the community, highlights the issues and inequalities that those portrayed face living in the Imperial Courts 'projects'.

Imperial Courts 1993-2015 came about after Lixenberg documented areas of Los Angeles in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. That violence followed the acquittal of four police officers after film footage of a man named Rodney King being repeatedly beaten when he was arrested for speeding was broadcast around the world.

The photographs, which depict the community over a 22-year period, are being shown for the first time on the island of Ireland.

During her initial visit to Imperial Courts Lixenberg spent a lot of time breaking down barriers and getting to know the community. She details in a book how she had to seek approval from the "unofficial godfather of the community" before making a single portrait.

Visitors can listen to audio recordings taken by the artist on a return visit some years later. Local people’s reactions to the earlier images can be heard as they reminisce about the individuals photographed. The recordings include harrowing tales of those who have been incarcerated, have disappeared or are no longer alive.

Some time after the subject of one 1993 portrait, of a woman named China perched on a climbing frame, was taken, China disappeared; neighbours believe she was murdered in the interim, although her body has never been found.

Another portrait taken by Lixenberg in 1993 shows a young boy named Tony; beside it hangs a photograph entitled ‘Tony’s memorial’ indicating his death.

Deirdre Robb, chief executive of Belfast Exposed said: “Dana Lixenberg has expertly captured a portrait of the Imperial Courts housing project creatively using photography to challenge stereotypical notions and empowered a community to have a direct voice and made visible issues ignored by society.”

Discussing the importance of the Imperial Court’s community being documented over a number of years she added: “The community, in the 22 years, haven’t significantly moved on; 22 years seems like a long time but in reality it is not, necessarily.

“That’s why I think this exhibition works so well and why I am glad that it has come to Belfast, because I think people can connect. They may not be from that kind of neighbourhood but they can connect with it in some way. It is the same principles and the same inequalities.”

:: The exhibition will run until October 20.

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