Brexit Through the F-stop: Kunsthal Rotterdam Exhibits Merlin Daleman’s Striking Images of a Divided Britain

Engeland, Beverley, 01-10-2017
Bezoekers aan de boerenmarkt van Beverley.
Fototentoonstelling van Merlin Daleman in de Kunsthal vanaf 19 september 2020.
© Foto Merlin Daleman

 

 

By the time the shock of the June 2016 Brexit referendum wore off, it became clear that many who had cast a “leave” vote were genuinely stunned to realize that the result had actually gone their way. Democracy, it seems, had proven more than a little dangerous when subjected to the contemporary propaganda machine, which had just about entered its new “fake news” epoch. To be sure, many who cast their ballots to exit the European Union did so without ever knowing the genuine facts regarding the eventual and ultimate cost to Britain of doing so.

If information was power, disinformation was poison.

Today a bitterly divided and once “Great” former empire languishes through a Brexit “transition period” that is supposed to end on December 31, 2020. But the UK has been ravaged this year by the coronavirus crisis, with more than 320,000 cases and 41,000 deaths out of a population of 66.6 million—putting their fatality rate above even America’s. It is arguably an island “kingdom” teetering away from relevance and influence.

And as has been said, “There’s London, then there’s Britain.” And the latter is rife with regions in terminal decline.

 

Engeland, Ingoldmells, 07-06-2019
Bushalte van Butlins Skegness.
Fototentoonstelling van Merlin Daleman in de Kunsthal vanaf 19 september 2020.
© Foto Merlin Daleman

 

On September 19, the Kunsthal Rotterdam will open a new exhibition titled My Brexit 52/48, which examines this philosophical/socio-political degeneration via images snapped during the last four years by award-winning Brit-Dutch documentary photographer Merlin Daleman. Daleman grew up in the Black Country mining district just west of Birmingham—and upon returning following the Brexit vote, he was stunned to see that so little had changed, save from everything having fallen into a state of seemingly irreversible decay.

“When people outside of the UK think of it,” he observes, “they soon picture Westminster, the Cotswolds and high tea; but next to this there are the boarded-up houses, the Orchard estates and fish ‘n’ chips. These people are not really seen, but they were heard by the result of the Brexit referendum.”

His lens vividly captures the disaffection of those whom the boom years left behind, visiting insalubrious towns like Kingston Upon Hull, West Bromwich and Grimsby—but also making stops in the Shakespearean tourist trap of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and the once-divided Northern Ireland capital of Belfast…which arguably has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance over the last decade. The images are rife with the anxiety and resignation of a people who may not even be entirely aware of how uncertain their future, and that of Britain just may be.

Daleman concludes, “I see a country in turbulent times, hit by austerity, and people that could not profit from the riches of globalization.”

My Brexit 52/48 will be on show at the Netherlands’ Kunsthal Rotterdam from September 10 through February 14.

 

Images from top
Engeland, Kingston upon Hull, 31-01-2017
Anlaby Road.
Fototentoonstelling van Merlin Daleman in de Kunsthal vanaf 19 september 2020.
© Foto Merlin Daleman
Engeland, West Bromwich, 07-06-2017
Sikhs in West Bromich High Street.
Fototentoonstelling van Merlin Daleman in de Kunsthal vanaf 19 september 2020.
© Foto Merlin Daleman
Northern-Ireland, Belfast, 13-10-2018
Shankill Road District.
Fototentoonstelling van Merlin Daleman in de Kunsthal vanaf 19 september 2020.
© Foto Merlin Daleman

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