Owen Logan’s words and photographs tell us about the world, not as we might want it to be, but in all its messy reality, torn by conflict and competition for resources and riven with global inequalities.
His photo-essay Masquerade: Michael Jackson Alive in Nigeria (2001–2005) follows the exploits of a costumed performer as he travels across the country. The young black soul singer’s transformation into the white ‘king of pop’ is used as an allegory for the conflicts and tensions in Nigeria. Working with the author Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Logan presents a biting satire on the relationship between the Nigerian political elite and foreign business interests. The project has its roots in Logan’s long-term interest in the politics and economics of the oil business, and its complex impact on communities. He believes it is important to understand that impact through the history of empires and the way Western countries use economics to exploit the rest of the world today.
For GENERATION, Masquerade is shown in the context of a group exhibition, The King’s Peace: Realism and War, which expands upon Logan’s central themes by questioning the meaning of ‘peace’ in modern societies. Co-curated by Logan it raises important questions about how domestic politics and economics across the globe have been shaped by warfare.
With a background in documentary projects, including a major photo-essay on Italian emigration to Britain, Logan works in a way that he describes as realist. In Masquerade humour, montage and storytelling are used to describe circumstances and capture connections that straight documentary depictions often miss. This approach continues throughout The King’s Peace exhibition with each contributor assembling words and images in ways that question the illusion of reality so easily achieved with cameras. Rather than capturing the spectacle of combat or the ghostly aftermath of violence, these realist photographers and filmmakers have been reluctant to show the human drama of war for fear of making it appear natural or eternal. Instead they examine the fundamental ties between conflict and peace, recognising the crucial role that images play in how societies communicate and comprehend notions of security. In this way they articulate the need for a genuine and democratic peace.