Critical Mass Top 50, 2011

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Colette Campbell-Jones


Coal Door

"Left" In

English Out

Abyss #3

Origin of the (Modern) World, After Courbet

Workingmen's Club


Family Snapshot

Colette Campbell-Jones

"Stories from Underground" evolved out of considering how imagery provides insight into the psychological mechanisms that filter and shape our sense of reality as well as linking ordinary experiences with universal counterparts existing at the level of legend and myth. I have combined photographic documents with "fictions" to visually reconstruct the oral histories from an unbroken lineage of coal miners and their families (including my own extended family) living in South Wales U.K. The mine is profoundly mythical, associated with the primordial Unknown. "Stories from Underground" is a dark faery-tale embodying fears of both literally being consumed by the earth below (and its parallel,the ancient terror of being consumed by the archetypal carnivorous Forest lurking deep within our collective psyches) along with the monsterous economic machinery above. Advancements in mining technology called "deep shaft" made cheap energy available on a scale previously unknown, transforming humanity and creating the modern world. For more than two centuries, "Stories" have been an integral part of the mining villages' self-transcendence by forging for themselves a spirited identity based upon their own values, camaraderie, coded humor, intense emotional bonds, organized labor, celebratory customs and traditions. Stories reveal the strange light of a proud people who have emerged from the mine's conditions of incommensurable darkness, from the Abyss---by coalescing into one collective, vibrant, organism. The story-tellers (many are unemployed-miners-turned-docents at World Heritage Sites) insist that they are the last link in the oral transmission of their culture as it is rapidly becoming individualist and as modernity renders their communities archival. The most recent "stories" added to their cannon foreshadow what they see beneath the porous surface of our post-industrial/post-modern technologies and the world of global capital.