“Material World” by David Welch

With this series, David Welch presents a thought-provoking project that takes influence from Karl Marx’s theory of ‘Objectification’, a concept that considers humankind’s relationship to materially existing forms. For Marx, ‘objectification’ is the process through which individuals externalize themselves through the objects they produce. These forms in turn help us to progress as human beings and acts as symbols for self-understanding and reflection.

In our contemporary world, however, a small minority of people control the means of production. Individuals are therefore forced to objectify themselves through the goods made available to them, which are nowadays mass-produced and in the form of consumer commodities.

Following Marx’s concept, Welch’s self-constructed totems of modern-day materially existing objects serve to convey our contemporary social biography. Using large-format photography, the assemblages are subsequently preserved within his images. The photographs then serve and remain as emblematic mirrors for our contemplation.

By creating and photographing larger-than-life totems of toys, televisions, clothing, cars and other mass-produced commodities Welch’s Material World series exposes and emphasizes the material world we live in. His photographs speak of accumulation and mass-consumption and reflect our contemporary consumer milieu, leaving us to question: why do we feel compelled to consume?

platformPHOTO: What inspired you to create this series?
David Welch: Several events came together for this series to come to fruition. I was heavily researching consumerism and found great texts by anthropologist Dr. Daniel Miller, whilst reading general introductory sources about material culture. Additional research topics were North American culture, its expansion and the tensions between settlers and native populations. This is where I rediscovered the totem and totem pole. I was looking at Chris Jordan’s Running the Numbers work, which I felt was visually arresting and poignant, yet too concrete and startling. Haunting, almost. I wanted to work with similar subject matter but present it with a bit of whimsicality, using the social biographical potential of the totem pole to present our contemporary biography.

platformPHOTO: Can you describe the mental process of when you got the idea?
David Welch: I was elated when those initial mental sketches popped into my head; I knew I had to find a way to create them. I was both excited and nervous because more often than not, what occurs in my head doesn’t necessarily get translated into a photo.

platformPHOTO: What sort of time-frame have you had to create this project?
David Welch: It is still an ongoing series, but the pieces created were done between 2010-2011 during my final year at graduate school.

platformPHOTO: What message do you wish to convey through the series?
David Welch: The work is about consumption and consumerism; the message is to be conscious of this system. However, the work is both comment and confession as I am not excluding myself from having participated. Much of the materials in the totems are either collected by me or representative of personal consumption.

platformPHOTO: The project comprises a mixture of sculptures and photographs and the structures are rather impressive! Do you see yourself as a sculptor too?
David Welch: Thank you. No, I don’t see myself as a sculptor, but many make the association. I need to learn a lot about sculpture, its history, contemporary usage, etc. It was a suitable medium for the project so I consider the totems my foray into sculpture.

platformPHOTO: Which artist has been the most inspirational for you in creating this project?
David Welch: A few come to mind. Duchamp, Ed Ruscha, Chris Jordan, Vik Muniz, and Tom Friedman. The common denominator is the conceptual focus of their work, utilising and recontextualizing everyday materials. Ruscha, for instance, forced me to rethink what being a “photographer” meant. I was impressed that he asked a friend do the photography for his book Thirtyfour Parking Lots, taking a more directing role and fostering what he felt was more important: the idea. Vik Muniz has a funny approach to sculpture and photography, making interesting work from rubbish, dust, cotton and chocolate syrup. Tom Friedman, an American sculptor, provided my introduction to sculpture and I immediately fell in love with his ideas. The hybrid, slash processes of these artists opened up new potential for my photography.

platformPHOTO: Thank you for your time David, here’s our last question. If we sent you to a desert island and you could take one picture taken by another photographer, what would it be?
David Welch: Oh, that’s a fantastic question but impossible to answer! I would have to quickly choose something from Joel Meyerowitz’s Cape Light series, to remind me of home.

Title: Material World.
Publisher: Roman Road Publishing
Editor: Ditto Press
Edition of 300. 32pages
Price: £5 (£10 signed)
For more information about the catalogue, please visit: http://www.romanroadps.com
David Welch, Material World.

David Welch, Material World.
Photograph of the book cover © Nicola Tree


A limited edition of 25 signed portfolios of “Material World” are also available for purchase.

Printing: Epson 7900 using Epson UltraChrome K3TM Ink Technology
Paper: Canson Platine Fibre Rag
Portfolio construction: Archival Methods
Publication date: 2013
Price: £900 (VAT included)
Distributed by: Roman Road Project space 69 Roman Road
London, E2 0QN http://www.romanroadps.com
For more information please contact: [email protected]

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