A Country Kind of Silence continues my internal exploration of feelings surrounding my sense of identity. A sense that belonging isn’t as unattainable as it is hard to grasp. I still hesitate when anyone asks me where I’m from, no doubt a question owing to my unusual accent. England has been my adoptive home for some time now, 26 years to be exact. However, moving from where my heart is rooted has had a profound effect on me. Feelings of unease and uncertainty have always been with me and many of these are tied to the constant changes I see in my surroundings; these developments have often mirrored a change in myself as time’s gone by.
I wanted A Country Kind of Silence to be a response to this change – of perception and my personal sense of self. I want to celebrate this transitional period with images that show a quiet calm, a moment of silence capturing various tropes of the past before they are lost and forgotten. I associate these visual cues with my adopted sense of identity – I am always in search of cultural symbols to anchor my identity to.
I often think of my relationship to the images I shot, both the ones that were selected and the ones that were not, and how they each help me understand the place I’m in. The pink and blue hues just off a Kent high street and the faded-peach tones of a Brightonian hairdressers say so much about who we were and how we did things but also where we are now and where we are headed. Hand-stenciled signage in Great Yarmouth roused me to capture that image – signs like this are representations of a time and a place and everything in between, reminders that these sites once thrived. We pass them often – sometimes daily – and pay them little attention, except when their dilapidation stands in stark contrast to the new.
For me, these relics chronicle my own understanding of place – they have become a sort of roadmap to understand who I am, where I am and what my surroundings mean. I am forever assessing change, updating my knowledge to reinforce my sense of belonging. The urban landscape is borne entirely from our creation and it tells us so much – We plan and build, reap and destroy and repeat the process as we pass through. It’s easy to forget that many of these things still bear the influence of the past - telling us much about ourselves while stuck in time, surviving, struggling and sometimes just about existing.
Arcadia has been referred to in popular culture as a utopian vision for centuries. A fictional place which is fertile and bountiful. Held aloft by artists, poets and playwrights as a depiction of one’s individual paradise. Now eroded by times relentless indifference to change, it remains lodged in our collective psyche as a touchstone.
In his series by the same name Ian Howorth looks to use this existing cultural framework to explore his personal connections to his own utopian ideal of ‘home’. Having relocated many times as a child before finally settling in Britain, his relationship with this concept has been fraught. Often considering himself an outsider.
The images in this series capture a retro nostalgia and constantly question our preconceived ideas of beauty. Arcadia takes us from the serene if not metronomic seaside towns of the South to the Working Mens Clubs and forgotten factories of the North. Through his unique style and mastery of film, Ian highlights a contemporary Britain suffocated by its past whilst allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions.