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A Local Review Of Southbound At The Hunter Museum

Local amateur art critic Chris Simpson and his thoughts on Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South

Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South is co-curated by Mark Sloan, and Mark Long, both of whom are on the faculty of the College of Charleston, in South Carolina. It is available for viewing at the Hunter Art Museum in Chattanooga until April 2020. It is absolutely worth going to see; while there you can visit the museum’s permanent collection.

Photography––it seems to tell a dichotomy of stories. That of the interpersonal–– controllable circumstances. The external––circumstances that are willed to us by uncontrollable forces.

Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South is a reflection of this dialogue. It brings photographs like Beltrá’s Spill and Laub’s Southern Rites together. These photographs highlight the tense dichotomy that flow between the frames of the space.

Sims’ work is one I would point to that questions our role as a southerner on the global stage. His images in Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan depict “fictitious Iraqi and Afghan villages on the training grounds of U.S. Army bases.“ They leave me thoughtfully curious about my role as a southerner; is this type of simulacrum an ethical way to train soldiers? Is this an uncontrollable external force?

This leads me to Kha’s work and his understanding of the other. He questions what the other can be. Kha’s is one of many depictions of interpersonal forces that tie the dichotomies together.

Philosophic undertones of escapism and simulacrum mingle with pervasive ideas in southerner’s life: racism––its stronghold in the south and how the New South fits in the world. Southbound’s aim is to redefine the current narrative of The South while preserving its tumultuous past.

How have we grown in globalism––an everchanging world? In what ways do we stagnate––refuse to change? These are questions I’m left with after encountering this body of work. Nikky Finney, eluded that the exhibition is evocative of repetitious history. This exhibition is important because it is relevant. It is an important key in the reformation of the New South; it is a poignant and robust depiction of what being southern can mean––and the complicated relationships that weave through the south.