Outdoor exhibition of prints at En Avant de Guingamp football stadium, Guingamp, Brittany, France, runs until October 31st 2019. Exhibition at GwinZegal Centre of Art, and the book ‘Parade’ published by GwinZegal Editions. All 70 images were taken between June 2016 and April 2019 within a 30 km radius of Guingamp, Brittany, France.
The day they announced the outcome of the Brexit vote, June 24th 2016, I began a project commissioned by Centre D’Art Gwinzegal, in the Brittany town of Guingamp.
Brittany (‘Little Britain’) was the name given to the parts of Armorica colonised by Insular Celts from ‘Great Britain’ (this is where the ‘Great’ term comes from :- a Norman influence on English). Interestingly, this went far beyond the name of the territory - various groups of immigrants between the 3rd and 6th centuries established their own petty kingdoms in Brittany named after their original tribes in Great Britain, and the relations between ‘mother tribes’ and colonies often lasted for centuries.
Surprisingly, many of the estimated 13,500 British citizens who live in Brittany do not speak French, and a big proportion of these also voted for Brexit. Like Russian dolls, each containing and revealing its smaller double, the Little Britain mentality was not difficult to find within Little Britain.
Now it is April 2019, I am coming to the end of my project in Brittany, and after more than two years of discussions about the withdrawal agreement, Britain is due to leave the European Union..During that period I made six working visits to Brittany, mostly focusing on an area within a 30 km diameter of the small town of Guingamp.
Although some of its residents have absolutely no direct involvement with neither football nor farming, Guingamp is famous for both. Brittany has more than 40,000 farms, mostly oriented towards cattle, pig and poultry breeding, and cereals and vegetables production. With six million pigs in the region, and a human population of only 3.2 million people, the pigs, in Orwellian fashion, can quite literally take over.
The city also hosts a professional football team called En Avant de Guingamp, which maintains a real ‘David and Goliath’ reputation...it won the French Cup in the 2008–2009 season while it was still part of the 2nd league, and beat Rennes to win the French Cup in 2013–2014. People from all backgrounds in the region seem to be supporters, particularly its agricultural community. Significantly, the exhibition of my prints will not only take place at Guingamp’s art centre, GwinZegal. Forty of the images are also displayed at the football stadium itself, as extremely large prints, lining the entrance. Around 19,000 people attend their football matches, and in the spirit of my project Port Glasgow, which was delivered uniquely to all 8,000 homes in the Port by the local boys football team, this project is also being returned to the local community through football. The Brittany farming community, which constitutes the primary demographic among En Avant de Guingamp supporters, are both the subject of, and the principal audience for, the print exhibition at the stadium.
I met many people in Brittany who have evolved a complex, unconventional relationships to animals, and who have also found new ways to think about the treatment and consumption of animals as food. These relationships are explored both metaphorically and directly in my images. Jean-Roc, for example, a kind of horse whisperer who trains horses to stand on cars, spends his life working with abused animals and rehabilitating them...Melinda worked in an abattoir for thirteen years, and then one day decided she could not stand the death anymore, and now she lives with and gives a home to a host of disabled, abused, or rejected animals. Alain, who adopts ecological models, says the definition of ‘non-industrial’ pig farming is when the pigs recognise the farmers voice.. I was given a wealth of real, practical insights into new ways of living with and rearing animals - even if the end point is still animals as food.
Notions of utopia, or ecotopia, underpin these images of farmers, nuns, Breton dancers, baton twirlers, people breeding pigs, dogs, or horses, supermarket shoppers, football supporters and football players, families on the beach or attending a beauty pageant.