Milner reveals the casualness of war
Thursday, September 18, 2008


One of the pieces by Maggy Milner

The latest exhibition by Derby-based photographer Maggy Milner sets out to tackle the themes of media technology and war. Milner offers an installation of backlit photos and video in the sedate attic space of Joseph Pickford's 1770 Grade I-listed townhouse, best known as a museum of Georgian life and costume.
'The idea is to show photographs, but in a way that suggests television and glowing computer screens,' says Milner. 'I wanted to explore the strange, fragmented experience we have of something such as the Iraq war in a way that was consistent with my own feelings about those events, based on seeing them reported in the media.'
Milner acknowledges that the effect of these incidents on her is not personal, as they are, for example, to many members of Derby's Iraqi community. But she believes that her images, despite their mostly abstract nature, nonetheless raise relevant points about how we experience war and tragedy in the 21st century.
'We see horrific and realistic images of war all the time, but there's also a tendency for television and the internet to use images that resemble computer games,' she says. 'As viewers, our emotional links to these events is limited, so the works in Blue are a personal response to these kinds of events as they have affected me.'
Despite having conceived and exhibited the series previously as framed photographs, Milner has made use of the glass museum cases at Pickford's House to set up complex reflections. In a further allusion to the hall-of-mirrors effect of modern media, the multiplied images show suggestive objects.
'There's paper cups, sacks and a blue scarf, which might be read as a shroud,' she adds. 'There are also tables stacked on top of one another, which to me always suggested the idea of meetings, people who are brought together, but don't really communicate and remain apart.'
There are also, as in her previous series, House, only tenuous signs of human presence among the enigmatic objects. Perhaps the clearest allusion comes in Milner's video piece, where a sea of candles slowly go out, one by one, until only the darkness remains.
'It's a bit of a cliché,' Milner admits. 'But when people gather at times of tragedy, lighting candles is what they do. I saw it after the train bombings in Madrid and at Beslan after the school siege. The candles in this piece don't correspond directly to individual lives lost, but they hopefully evoke that sense of vigil, and remind viewers of airport landing-lights, or an empty city.'
Sat Sep 20 until Nov 11, Pickford's House Museum, 41 Friar Gate, Derby. Mon 11am to 5pm; Tue to Sat 10am to 5pm; Sun 1pm to 4pm, free. Tel: 01332 255363.