Writings"Hate is / Isolation"

By Gair Dunlop, Artcritic and Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Art Practice at University of Dundee, Scotland


Published in Notes - Letters to Photography / no 4 / Spring Summer 2018

Photography, crime and punishment are themes with a lot of baggage: action, passion, fury and cunning. Tina Enghoff’s boxset Hate is / Isolation assembles texts and photographs of sites that are recorded calmy in the aftermath of crimes and in the aftermath of punishments. Both books communicate someone else’s turmoil and violence , and both function as reports on flows of hatred, resistance, of troubled damage. These exquisitely produced books operate not as records of events themselves, but on a quieter level, raising troubling questions of process, context and unresolved social schisms.
Enghoff uses chronological repetition and evocation of entropy to make us understand cycles of violence and damage, evoking claustrophobia and limits on our sense of action. Hate is shows places, everyday ones. Specificity of place is accompanied by a studious objectivity. The imagery recalls the dispassionate and disenchanted gaze of the New Topographics photographers and of Michael Schmidt.
On the first read, the photographs build a landscape closed in around itself, the view constantly mobile between sites notable only for their commenplace nature and the incident number on each page. Hedges hint at labyrinths. The shock comes in the final section of the book. The numbers are revealed as specific kinds of crime, brutal and yet everyday crimes of sexual and racial persecution. Now the reading method changes, back and forth between crime and contex, trying and failing to make any sense of the events: ”Why there? Hate is captures a roaming and diffuse hatred, one which pervades and targets individuals at any place. ”Why anywhere?”
It is contrasted in Isolation with very specific focussed anger against the limited elements of one space; light fitting, televison, bed, window. It centres on identically framed and chronologically photographed damage report notices on the doors of Ringe Prison’s seven solitary confinement cells. Taken over a period of two years, the record of damage, graffiti and cumulative cycles of use tell us curtley about life in these abject zones. We don’t see them, but we can imagine them from the terse damage descriptions and some images out of their windows. Nothing to see here. Condensed reports are the only clues to life within.
Kamille Nygård, chaplain at Ringe prison, has contributed a profound reverie on solitary confinement, it uses and abuses, its role in historically Scandinavian theory of personal redemption and its punitive vengeful shadow. In Hate is philosopher Jørgen Dehs conceptualises hatred as the last unredeemable emotion. How could we find beauty in the images, now that the sites they portray have been contaminated by information?
It used to be possible to speak of inner space and outer space as two dimensions of thinking about the future; the life of the imagination and the boundless world of progress. Austerity, retrenchment of the state and retreat of any idea of citizenship beyond consumption have emptied those tropes of a sense of possibility. The spaces in Tina Enghoff’s pair of perfectly symmetrical books reflect this, darkly.