Middle Passage, Chapter 3 from Fish Story [(1990-1993)]
The work is displayed as part of the permanent exhibition
19 colour photographs and 4 panels with text
Edition 2/5 and 1 artist’s proof
Purchased in 2002
Inv. No. 217/02
Allan Sekula expanded the artistic use of photography, combining practices drawn from conceptual art with those of documentary photography, in photographic installations which bring together photographic prints, slide projections, recorded conversations, written testimonies and other text. Through the political approach in practice, he explores the ways in which the capitalist economy, the industry, and the shipping business impact on the lives of ordinary people, workers, and communities. Middle Passage is the third out of a total of nine chapters of the larger photographic work Fish Story. The work has a dual form: on the one hand, it can be seen as nine-fold photographic installation consisting of photographic prints, slide projections, and text; on the other hand, it can be read as a seven-chapter book demonstrating the exact same structure with the addition of a supplementary essay, written by the artist himself. This essay discusses the subject of the installation, namely the role of ports and the shipping business in capital accumulation and the exploitation of seamen and dock workers. Middle Passage stands as an autonomous work within Fish Story, for which Allan Sekula watches and records the everyday life of seamen working on board a cargo ship carrying containers across the Atlantic Ocean and uses the opportunity to underscore the amount of toil and exploitation hidden beneath what in contemporary global economy is perceived as a vague flow of capital.
Stamatis Schizakis, text from the permanent exhibition guide ENTER EMST : Collection & History, A short guide, 2020