11 October - 1 November 1997
Very Miscellaneous, a body of work by German artist Joachim Schmid, was the second project commissioned by PhotoWorks as part of Country Life, a series of exhibitions and books curated and edited by Val Williams. Combining portraits by Sussex photographer George Garland and fragments of newspaper articles drawn from the West Sussex Records Office, Schmid’s work quietly resonates with the details of real lives and experiences, echoing a sense of place and a particular rural way of life. But, more broadly, the work dwelled on the nature of history and memory and on how we understand the past through the partial narratives contained in and created by archives.
Country Life began in 1995 when Val Williams was invited to devise a series of artists’ commissions which would take as their starting point the historic collection of photographs made by West Sussex photographer George Garland from the late 1920s to the 1960s. Working from Petworth, Garlland made thousands of photographs during this period, some were portraits taken in his small wooden studio, others were made while travelling around the Sussex countryside to weddings, village fetes, village hall theatricals or political meetings.
Internationally recognised since the mid-1980s for his work using found photographs, Joachim Schmid was invited to work directly with the Garland Collection in 1996. At first, daunted by the size of the archive and the often mundane nature of the material, Schmid became fascinated by Garland’s obsessive recording and classification of every possible subject.
Finally, he selected a series of simple, deadpan portraits from the 1940s and 50s. “…using them as anonymous substitutes for the local population I combined them with fragments of articles from local newspapers of the time. There is no direct relationship between the texts and portraits, but the events and ideas represented in the extracts are particles of human lives and were probably of some importance, at certain moments in time, for the people in the portraits. When presenting these texts I was looking for a visual equivalent for fading memories…”
Very Miscellaneous was funded by the South East Arts Board. The exhibition was organised in association with Fabrica, Brighton, the book was published with financial support from the Arts Council England.