Photographed across four years and four continents, The Canary and The Hammer details our reverence for gold and its role in humanity’s ruthless pursuit of progress. Through a mix of image, text and archival material, Lisa Barnard provides an insight into the troubled history of gold and the complex ways it intersects with our global economy.
Gold is ubiquitous in modern life; the mineral is concealed at the heart of much of the technology we use and is, most fundamentally, a potent symbol of value, beauty, purity, greed and political power. The Canary and The Hammer strives to connect these disparate stories—from the mania of the gold rush and the brutal world of modern mining, to the sexual politics of the industry and gold’s often dark but indispensable role at the heart of high-tech industry. By addressing this through photography, Barnard raises the question of how her chosen medium can respond to such abstract events and concepts.
The interactive website The Gold Depository strives to make connections between these very different stories. It represents the artist’s personal journey through the world of gold and the structure of the narrative mirrors the complexity of the task of representing the world in these fragmented and troubling times.
Lisa Barnard (b.1967) 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. She has published three monographs: Chateau Despair and Hyenas of the Battlefield, Machines in the Garden. Her recent publication The Canary and the Hammer is published by MACK. The Hyenas photo book was funded by the Albert Renger Patzsche Book Award, and nominated for the Prix Du Livre at Rencontres D’Arles (2015). Barnard is an Associate Professor in Photography and is programme leader of the MA in Documentary Photography and also teaches on the BA in Documentary Photography at The University of South Wales, Cardiff (UK).