Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, an obituary

1000 Words, 2020

On the occasion of the posthumous retrospective of Broomberg & Chanarin at Fabra i Coats Contemporary Art Centre, Barcelona,


Adam:

Dear David, Olly and I are about to announce the official end of our collaboration with a show at Fabra i Coats Contemporary Art Centre in Barcelona called “The Late Estate Broomberg & Chanarin”. I would love you to write an obituary for this artist. I don’t know anyone who has had more influence on that artist and who has also been fearless as an outspoken critic of it. Would you consider writing a standard say NYT length obit. The show is on Feb 20 and we would like to pitch it beforehand so time is tight. Please would you consider it. It’s a really big moment for us and it would close a circle in some way and allow for a fresh new start. Let me know your thoughts D.

David: 

In the spirit of this authorial play, the artists should write it and I will sign it.

Adam: 

Are you serious?
You will sign your name to anything we write?

David:

I’ll check with him.

Adam:

Please do

David:

He says “in principle, yes” but he knows that principles are for sale.

Adam:

Tell him no deal
We want his thoughts and emotions
Or nothing

David:

No deal. He keeps his emotions pretty private.

Adam: 

Then his thoughts

David:

Feb 20 is too soon, I think. I’ve had a look at my schedule. I have so much to do here.

Adam:

We go back a long way David.  Those chats you and I had did influence many of the key projects Olly and I made. Likewise, us publishing your book Rich and Strange, me introducing you to Michael Mack. We were important to one another.

Adam:

OK… last try… not even a few words? Literally just a soundbite?
I know it’s a big ask David but it’s a big moment
Please do this, life is short and these moments count.

On Feb 20th Olly and I officially announce the end of our collaboration… Here is the press release:

The Late Estate Broomberg & Chanarin | Fabri I Coats. Barcelona. Feb 20th, 2021

In December 2020 two days before the United Kingdom closed its borders due to a new variant of the coronavirus, a 13 metre-long articulated truck left London for Barcelona. The truck was packed with wooden crates loaded with every piece of work produced by the artists Broomberg & Chanarin, all of the unprinted negatives, contact prints and intimate notes and sketches of unrealised projects. After more than 20 years of collaboration, the duo has legally, economically, creatively and conceptually committed suicide. Luckily, they left a note. Their last will and testament will be opened and read aloud on February 20 at Fabra i Coats: Contemporary Art Centre alongside a comprehensive display of their estate.

This is the first posthumous retrospective of their much-celebrated career, which will serve to announce the end of a important collaboration, while referring–not without irony–to the death of an artist, which goes from literary theory to current legislation. The exhibition questions concepts such as authorship, memory and heritage. For this reason, their complete archive will be exhibited little by little over the period of 3 months, in the presence of an archivist who will publicly appraise the estate inside the gallery halls. Like the deceased attending their own funeral Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin will come to Barcelona to silently observe the forensic detailing and interpretation of their posthumous legacy.

For the last twenty-three years, the duo Adam Broomberg (Johannesburg, 1970) and Oliver Chanarin (London, 1971) have worked in a forensic and paranoid interrogation of the photographic medium, in search of everything cultural, emotional, political. and economic that governs the currency of images. At Fabra i Coats we will see emblematic series (such as Divine Violence, War Primer 2 and The Day Nobody Died), as well as all Broomberg & Chanarin’s 15 books (world-renowned and many out of print).

Broomberg & Chanarin received numerous awards, including the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (UK), the Infinity Book Awards (USA) and, more recently, the Arles Photo Book Awards (France). They are professors of photography at the Hamburg Academy of Art and their work, which has been exhibited around the world, is included in collections of the most prominent museums internationally (MoMA, Tate Modern, Center Georges Pompidou , etc.).

So far this is who has agreed

Kathy Battista publishing obit in ART REVIEW magazine
Luisa Buck publishing obit in The Art Newspaper
Sean O’Toole publishing obit in British Journal of Photography
Michael Mack publishing obit in 1000 Words
Bruno Ceschal publishing obit in Aperture Magazine
Brad Feuerhelm publishing obit in ASX (American Suburban Ex)
Kim Knoppers publishing obit in FOAM magazine
Felix Hoffman publishing obit in Text zur Kunst

Olivia Gideon Thomson publishing obit in 032C

Natalia Grabowska publishing obit in Serpentine Website

Ossian Ward publishing obit in ?

Brett Rogers on TPG website

Let me know.
Love
Adam

David:

okok! (why all the pomp for this dissolution?)

Adam:

Thank you
It’s not pomp, it’s a celebration and a ritual. I’ve spent 23 years of my life working with that cunt. It deserves some dignity and celebration.

David: 

Well, a bang, not a whimper it be.

Adam:

Are you happy for 1000 Words to publish your obit, D?

David:

I don’t know. I haven’t written it yet. Try not to let the tail of publicity do the wagging.

Adam:

David, You speak in riddles.
The separation of this partnership has been fucking gruelling and painful. It was 23 years of intense and beautiful collaboration. You know how much had to be negotiated between us and what a wrestle collaboration involves.  You also know the difference between our practices strutting, overconfident public performance and the very ordinary anxiety involved in the making of the work. I have asked a handful of people on the planet I love and who have influenced my work to put it to rest. Not to eulogise or publicise it but to put it to rest.They have all been able to say yes or no. Just let me know.

David: 

Dearest Adam,

This has been the obituary you wrote for Broomberg & Chanarin. I am happy to put my name to it.♦

Image courtesy the artists © Broomberg & Chanarin