Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools

23 Jan 2012 - 18 Mar 2012
Slide show: 
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Social Documents / Allan Sekula: Ship of Fools
Allan Sekula Film Retrospective,  Stills 2011
Allan Sekula Film Retrospective,  Stills 2011
Allan Sekula Film Retrospective,  Stills 2011
Allan Sekula Film Retrospective,  Stills 2011
Allan Sekula Film Retrospective,  Stills 2011
Allan Sekula Film Retrospective,  Stills 2011

For the second instalment of Stills’ Social Documents programme Allan Sekula presents his most recent series of photographs Ship of Fools alongside his award-winning documentary film The Forgotten Space. Together, they examine the sea as a space of trade, work, exploitation, activism and the sublime.

The Ship of Fools events programme includes special screenings of The Forgotten Space; a series of lectures by photographers and visual culture specialists exploring art and the effects of globalisation as well as a new reading group where we will get to grips with Karl Marx’s Capital. For full details please click here.


Download the gallery interpretation material here.

Events Programme Overview

Exhibition launch with Daniel Padden   Fri 27 January 6pm - 8pm   Join us for the exhibition launch with live music from Glasgow-based musician Daniel Padden.
The Forgotten Space   Fri 17 February, 11am   Glasgow Film Festival, Glasgow Film Theatre, FREE
    Mon 5 March, 6pm   The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, £7.50/£5.50
    Tues 13 March, 6pm   Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, £4/£2
The Globalisation and Art Lectures, at Stills, FREE   Fri 3 February, 6pm   Richard Williams: A Modern Ruin - the 'United States' in Philadelphia
    Wed 15 February, 6pm  

Gail Day: Social Transitivity in Allan Sekula's The Lottery of the Sea
Steve Edwards: Some Brechtian Moments

    Thursday 23 February,6pm
  Anu Pennanen,  Gaze Value
    Wed 29 February, 6pm   Owen Logan: Globalising the Spiritual Aristocracy: Reflections on Class, Art and Gods
    Wed 14 March, 6pm   Antigoni Memou: Contesting Globalisation: Allan Sekula's Waiting for Tear Gas
Reading Capital with David Harvey, at University of Edinburgh   every second Tuesday from 24 Jan - 26 June   email to participate


Ship of Fools Exhibition Launch with Daniel Padden

Daniel Padden is a musician with a prolific and diverse background. He has created theatre and film scores as well as recording and performing throughout Europe and the US with Volcano The Bear and The One Ensemble. His own distinctive music uses all manner of instruments, touching on folk, improv, experimental and chamber music. For this rare solo performance he will take the sea as his theme.

Music organised by Emily Roff. 

The Forgotten Space

The sea is forgotten until disaster strikes, but perhaps the biggest seagoing disaster is the global supply chain which leads the world economy into the abyss. Allan Sekula and Noël Burch’s award-winning film essay offers a lucid and lyrical document of worker's conditions, the inhuman scale of containerised sea trade and the secret lives of port cities.

Friday 17 February, 11am Glasgow Film Festival, Glasgow Film Theatre, 12 Rose Street, Glasgow, FREE Presented as part of The Glasgow School of Art’s Friday Event lecture programme and screened in collaboration with Glasgow Film Festival. FREE

Monday 5 March 2012, 6pm The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, £7.50/ £5.50 (Concession)

Tuesday 13 March 2012, 6pm Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, £4/£2 (Concession)

The Forgotten Space Trailer from The Forgotten Space on Vimeo.

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The Globalisation and Art Lectures

For this lecture series art historians, photographers, artists and visual culture specialists have been invited to examine the intersections between art and the social realities produced by globalisation. All of the lectures are FREE.

To book a place on any of these free lectures please email

Friday 3 February 2012, 6pm  

Richard Williams: A Modern Ruin - the ‘United States’ in Philadelphia
Focus Space artist Richard Williams presents an informal lecture on his current exhibition in Stills’ Focus Space which draws together his personal connections to the material and his writing on the contemporary built environment and globalisation.

The 'United States' is one of the sights of contemporary Philadelphia. One of remarkably few surviving transatlantic liners, it is a monument to a heroic industrial age in which the US itself was indubitably in the ascendant. In its present condition, semi-derelict, and moored opposite a retail park that could be anywhere in the world, it has a lot to say about the violent transformation of industrial societies over the past 40 years. Richard Williams’ talk will introduce the 'United States' for those who don't know it, and speculates on its past, present, and uncertain future.

Richard Williams is Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures at The University of Edinburgh. His books include The Anxious City (2004) and Brazil: Modern Architectures in History (2009). Though his published work invariably features his own photographs United States is his first public exhibition

Focus Space, Richard Williams: United States

Wednesday 15 February 2012, 6pm  

Gail Day: Social Transitivity in Allan Sekula's The Lottery of the Sea

Focusing on Allan Sekula's video essay The Lottery of the Sea (2006), Gail Day considers the longstanding, but recently revived, problem of realism. Her talk explores the representational strategies used to negotiate a critical cognition of contemporary capitalism.

Gail Day is Senior Lecturer in the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. Her book Dialectical Passions: Negation in Postwar Art Theory was published by Columbia University Press in 2010.

Steve Edwards: Some Brechtian Moments

Taking the re-evaluation of Bertolt Brecht's legacy as a starting point, Steve Edwards will use the radical aesthetics of the 1970s as a frame for thinking about Allan Sekula’s photo-text works.

Steve Edwards teaches art history at the Open University. Books include: The Making of English Photography, Allegories (2006) and Photography : A Very Short Introduction (2006). His book Martha Rosler's The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems will be published by Afterall early in 2012. He is an editor of Historical Materialism and of Oxford Art Journal.


Thursday 23 February 2012, 6pm

Anu Pennanen, Gaze Value

Finnish artist Anu Pennanen's work in film and photography deals with urban public space. Presented as a five-screen installation, her film The Ruins of the Gaze is set in Europe's largest transportation and shopping hub: Les Halles in Paris. Produced over a period of three years, the film is structured around a number of vignettes which follow the daily lives of several individuals within this architectural complex and through them, traces the connections with the city's outskirts. For this talk, Pennanen will borrow from the Marxist concepts of 'exchange and value' and 'use value' to discuss her concept of 'gaze value'.

Anu Pennanen will exhibit her work in the final instalment of the Social Documents series in 2013.

Wednesday 29 February 2012, 6pm  

Owen Logan: Globalising the Spiritual Aristocracy: Reflections on Class, Art, and Gods

For the final instalment of Stills' Social Documents series, Owen Logan is producing a photographic work entitled 'Where Pathos Rules', examining the visual representation  and cultural economy of resource related conflicts. The exhibition ECONOMY will open in January 2013.

In his talk on February 29th this year, Logan focuses on the arts and globalisation, touching on socially engaged projects that involve photography. Socially engaged arts projects are increasingly carried out with a missionary zeal that goes beyond the desire to inform social change through realist forms of representation, and instead they set out to implement social change among groups and communities on the basis of transforming the lives of individuals. Drawing on the writings of Robert Hobson, Augusto Boal, Mary Barnes and Abraham Maslow, Logan argues that the idea of 'saving the world' one person at a time ought to be taken more seriously and subjected to appropriate critique.

Owen Logan is a documentary photographer and a researcher in the field of socioeconomics and culture. He is a contributing editor to Variant magazine and co-editor of the book Flammable Societies - studies on the socio-economics of oil and gas, recently published by Pluto Press. Logan's photo-essay projects have concentrated on culture, economic and political fracturing, seen in life in Morocco, published as Al Maghrib (1989); in the history of Italian emigration, Bloodlines/Viteallo Specchio (1994); in post-colonial Nigerian society, A Home of Signs and Wonders (1997) and in other ongoing projects. 

Wednesday 14 March 2012, 6pm  

Antigoni Memou: Contesting Globalisation: Allan Sekula’s Waiting for Tear Gas

Antigoni Memou will discuss Allan Sekula’s project Waiting for Tear Gas (2000), a series of photographs that has been exhibited widely as well as appearing in the collective publication Five Days that Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond. Taken during the anti-globalisation protests in Seattle in 1999, the images document the resistance to the limits of globalisation. Memou will place the series in opposition to other practices, including documentary photography, street photography and photojournalism, and in particular in relation with other contemporary photographic projects that engaged with the counterforce of neoliberal globalisation.

Antigoni Memou is Lecturer in History and Theory of Art at the University of East London and Consultant Lecturer on Photography on the MA in Critical Approaches to Photography at the Sotheby's Institute, (London). Her book entitled 'Photography and Social Movements: From the Globalisation of the Movement (1968) to the Movement Against Globalisation (2001)' is to be published by Manchester Press in 2013.

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Reading Capital with David Harvey

Geographer and social theorist David Harvey has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital Volume 1 for over 40 years. His lectures are now available online and provide a lively and accessible means of approaching one of the most essential and relevant political, economic and theoretical texts of modern times.

In collaboration with Stills, The History of Art department at The University of Edinburgh will host a series of open discussion sessions based around these video lectures. Participants will read the relevant section of the book in advance before watching Harvey’s lecture together and discussing the material.

If you would like to participate please email

Venue: History of Art Common Room, Minto House, The University of Edinburgh, 20 Chambers Street, EH1 1JZ

Join us every second Tuesday for 12 weeks starting on 24 January 2012:
24 January 2012
7 February 2012
21 February 2012
6 March 2012
20 March 2012
3 April 2012
17 April 2012
1 May 2012
15 May 2012
29 May 2012
12 June 2012
26 June 2012

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This programme is presented with generous support from The University of Edinburgh's History of Art department and the Roberts Fund.