From the Editor’s Desk


At its highest level Art is dialogue with society.1 Even then it is usually contextual, the conversation is with a particular society.2 Photographer and documentarian John Rash’s work exhibited at the Carrack earlier this month speaks deeply to two societies.

Art imitates Life? Or recapitulates it?

Rash’s documentation of Chongqing, China is powerfully poignant. At the Carrack in a complex and layered exhibition of still photographs and extremely short films3, he opened a window to real lives and personal spaces. Rash mixed media to the viewer’s advantage, large art quality prints were interspersed with polaroids, an interpolation that gave unspoken credibility; tiny personal photos of the same places validating the reality of the bigger scale portraits of life.

The intimacy was amazing. The distance between Durham viewer and Chinese citizen across the globe was shortened to an arm’s length. Rash’s subject matter writ small was kitchens, kettles, cups, and dishes, chairs, tables, desks, and windows, wires, stairways, A/C units, and laundry lines, doors, benches, parks, and trees. Writ large, it was humanity, living. His trained lens took one inside a culture.

And then you remembered the title of the exhibit “Chāi Qiān(拆迁): Inevitable Development.”

What are those sloppily painted red characters present in so many of these photos?

Marked for destruction?!?

Rash tells us Chāi means pull down; dismantle. The lettering signifies spaces that are designated to be demolished to make way for Qiān; development.

Sound familiar, Durham?

Suddenly the intimacy of the photos becomes fearfully powerful as you rush back around the room to look again into the windows of people’s lives and stories in spaces and places where the wrecking ball is coming. The most commanding photo in the room shows the results of the demolition having already come. Mounds upon mounds of brick and debris liter the foreground of empty space ringed by high rise apartments.

An inevitable development, Durham?

photo by John Rash

photo by John Rash


1Art at its most primal level is visceral.

2Save for the archetypal, the DaVinci’s, the Van Gogh’s.

3The Carrack’s founder, Laura Richie, made the salient and important point in an exhibit that features these sort of mixed media, film inevitably becomes what people gravitate towards and appears to dangerously erode their patience and observation skills for more ostensibly “staid” photographs.


“From the Editor’s Desk”

is written by our Editor: Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel

Aaron Mandel is a writer and an accomplished public speaker. He is the publisher of the Clarion Content. For more than a decade, the Clarion Content has covered Durham’s arts, politics, music, and cultural milieu. From breaking news stories to the hottest local acts, the Clarion Content is on the scene. The Clarion Content published more than twenty distinguished guest columnists and garnered nearly a million views. Mandel is a volunteer for the Durham Mighty Pen Literacy Project and serves as the President of the Board of Sustain-A-Bull Durham, a local small business collective with more than 200 members. He writes regularly on the Clarion Content and has been quietly writing fiction since the 4th grade. Mandel has been published in the Raleigh News and Observer. He has also produced numerous art shows, including, “Durham under Development”. He was a featured speaker at “The State of Publishing” conference. He has presented to Durham Chamber of Commerce, “Chamber U” on the “New Media”. He has also served as the play-by-play announcer for the D.B.L., a Durham youth basketball league. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religious Studies from Indiana University in Bloomington. An avid policy debater at Indiana and a Nation Debate Tournament qualifier, Mandel was also a member of the New Jersey State Champion two-person Policy Debate Team. He has lived in North Carolina, New Jersey, California, Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, and Baja California, Mexico.

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