We are surrounded by gold - though we may rarely actually see it or handle it: it is concealed in much of the technology we use, is a barometer for the state of the economy, and is, most fundamentally, a potent symbol of ultimate value, beauty, purity, greed and political power. The online ‘depository’ strives to make connections between very different stories, representing a personal journey through the world of gold and the structure mirrors the complexity of the task of representing the world in these fragmented and troubling times. I look at the mythologies of its discovery and the mania of the gold-rush, at the brutal world of mining, and at the sexual politics of the industry. I investigate how gold has become an indispensable component in the engineering and electronic industries, and how its application as a key nanomaterial now offers solutions to a range of global health and environmental challenges.
The project as a whole is a response to the financial crisis of 2008 and its exposure of the western world’s determination to accumulate wealth. Like the ‘canary’ taken into the mine, gold is the gauge by which we monitor our environment; the ‘hammer’, the tool that smashes the structures to which it is embedded. Gold provides a prism through which globalism can be refracted and each topic represents a different strand, underpinned by a peculiar act of faith in its value. Ultimately, gold - mysterious, powerful, singular - is a material substance that fuses together these different versions of striving for knowledge, beauty, wealth and inordinate power.
Lisa Barnard’s photographic practice is placed in the genre of documentary. Her work discusses real events, embracing complex and innovative visual strategies that utilise both traditional documentary techniques with more contemporary and conceptually rigorous forms of representation. Barnard connects her interest in aesthetics, current photographic debates around materiality and the existing political climate. Of particular interest to her is Global Capitalism, the relationship between the military industrial complex, screen based new technologies and the psychological implication of conflict.
“Barnard describes herself as a photographic artist, but her work seems unapologetically political. She pays homage to, and undercuts, the tropes of documentary realism”. Sean O Hagan, Guardian Review of Chateau Despair, 2013.
Lisa Barnard is Senior Lecturer on the Documentary Photography BA and Programme leader on the MA Documentary Photography at The University of South Wales. She has two publications both with GOST, Chateau Despair and Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden. The Hyenas publication was funded by the Albert Renger Patzsche Book Award, and nominated for the Prix Du Livre at Rencontres D’Arles in 2015. In 2015 Barnard was awarded the Prestige Grant from Getty Images that has part funded this project.