Exploring Contemporary Art - British Art Show 8

Broomberg and Chanarin - Dodo (2014)

Artist Biographies: 

Adam Broomberg (born 1970 in South Africa) and Oliver Chanarin (born 1971 in London) live and work in London. They both grew up in Wuppertal, a small town in South Africa and have worked together for 17 years. 


Before becoming artists, they began their careers as newspaper and magazine photographers. Their work often draws on documentary or archive photographs, which they manipulate. 

The two artists sometimes use these 'found images' as a means to explore political issues, such as the relationship between photography and war. For example, they worked with the Belfast Exposed Archive to pick out individual snapshots of violence during the Troubles.


Broomberg and Chanarin are photographic practitioners but they work across diverse media, including written texts and material selected from archives. Their 'Holy Bible' project, for example, matched images with text from the King James Bible.

‘Dodo’ (2014):

This art work was inspired by unseen footage from the film of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, which Broomberg and Chanarin have repurposed. The film was shot in the town of San Carlos, an isolated site only accessible by boat. On the previously unspoiled site, the crew left behind a large scale set and a buried B-25 aeroplane. 

When the two artists later decided to excavate the plane and investigate the landscape, they found that much of the structures left behind had already decayed and little remained. Broomberg and Chanarin compared this process to the extinction of the dodo:

‘The plane’s disappearance recalls that of the dodo, the first species on Earth to be made extinct as a result of human activity. Four centuries after its last sighting, not a single intact skeleton or trustworthy image remains. Only one egg survives.’ 
(Quoted from http://broombergchanarin.com/dodo) 

Discussion ideas:

  • What can you see in 'Dodo'?
  • Compare 'Dodo' to something in your own life.
  • Why do Broomberg and Chanarin focus on images of the past?
  • What do you think of the connection between the dodo and the decay of the structures made for the Catch-22 set?

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

Scroll down for a list of links and resources on this topic.

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