Phantom pain describes the feeling of pain in a part of the body that is no longer physically present, usually as a result of an accident or amputation. It is similar with phantom culture - the culture is there, even if the audience belonging to it is missing.
This content was published on April 5, 2022 - 14:41
Mark Henley, images and Thomas Kern, Text and Editing
Update April 5, 2022: Mark Henley won first prize in the Daily Life category at the 2022 Swiss Press Photo awards for his "Phantom Culture" reportage published by SWI swissinfo.ch in May 2021.
The ongoing Covid crisis has affected every one of us. But one group has been particularly affected by the restrictive measures, and still are; those working in the cultural sector. Over the past year they have had to face this existentialist question: Does culture exist without an audience?
Closed concert halls, empty opera houses, small theatres, clubs, museums, galleries, cinemas and many other unnamed places dedicated to the performance and presentation of culture. This has been their reality since the lockdown measure were announced.
Mark Henley wanted to know more about the living conditions of those in the cultural industry that somehow tried to continue living and practising their profession. He spoke to friends, mostly professional dancers about difficult training conditions, and how they kept practicing without performing.
For Henley, a journey began through the city that has been home to the English photographer for several years. Geneva's cultural scene is not his milieu, but as a photojournalist, immersing himself in foreign worlds is part of his everyday life. He accessed theatre stages and empty auditoriums, museums and artists' studios, and in everything he got to see, he was almost always the only spectator.
An extended selection of images of Phantom Culture by Mark Henley will be shown at Flux Laboratory, Rue de la Muse 5, Geneva, from 10 to 25th June, 2021 and later in September at the Théâtre Forum in Meyrin.
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Through this project Henley met many artists and gained insight into the toil, perseverance and dedication of their work, which in our society is often considered more of a hobby and often does not get the appreciation it deserves.
With the recent relaxation of lockdown measures, certain events have sprouted back to life. Henley’s documentation work is over; he will miss the encounters but his images remain with us.