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Belfast Exposed Photography: Xavier Ribas - HABITUS - 8 Oct 2009 to 24 Nov 2009

Current Exhibition

8 Oct 2009 to 24 Nov 2009
Gallery open Tuesday to Saturday – 11am to 5pm
Belfast Exposed Photography
The Exchange Place
23 Donegall Street
United Kingdom
p: 44 028 9023 1606

Xavier Ribas
Ribas, from the series Nomads, 2008
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Belfast Exposed Photography

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Artists in this exhibition: Xavier Ribas

HABITUS by Xavier Ribas
8 Oct – 24 Nov

A solo exhibition by Catalan photographer Xavier Ribas, held jointly at Belfast Exposed and PLACE. The exhibition focuses on recent work presented in grid format and draws on Ribas’ longstanding interest in urban structure, archaeology and anthropology.

Habitus (2008) serves as departure point for the exhibition. The images taken in Barcelona over a decade, explore changing notions of centre and periphery within the urban context. A grid structure encourages formation of narratives and physical assumptions about the areas pictured and their relationship to one another.

Nomads (2008), documents the methods of dissuasion taken by corporate developer Nesco, to evict some sixty gypsy families from an abandoned industrial site in the Poblenou district of Barcelona. Over the course of a few days, the developers drilled and lifted the concrete floor of the site, leaving behind a kind of ‘horizontal wall’ as a defensive structure to keep the land empty. The damaged landscapes left behind, demonstrate the economic value of destruction to control space.

MMDCCLXI A.V.C. is a triptych showing archaeological remains of a pre-Christian necropolis and Roman villa located in the underground car park of a shopping mall in the city of Tarragona. Removed during the works, these significant archeological finds were later relocated to the car park's lower deck, some twenty metres below the level of their first discovery, a sudden descent equivalent to thousands of years of subsistence in pre-modern conditions. A similar forward acceleration in the effects of time is noticeable in signs of the rapid deterioration of the remains, effected by carbon monoxide emitted from the city's buses and cars.

According to the Roman calendar, which begins in 753 BC, the year of the foundation of Rome, MMDCCLXI A.V.C is the year, 2008. ( AVC standsfor Ab urbe condita, 'from the founding of the city')

HABITUS is shown in the context of Belfast Exposed’s ongoing examination of the city through archive and gallery projects, which explore social and political currents in ‘post conflict’ Belfast and the complex relationships between past and present, inscribed on public, private and commercial spaces.

A series of events, salons, artist and architects’ talks will accompany this exhibition, examining questions of urban development as it impacts on the city, alongside explorations of memory, conflict and the attachment to place.


Xavier Ribas (b. Barcelona, 1960) lives and works in Brighton and Barcelona. With a background in social anthropology he graduated in Documentary Photography at the Newport School of Art and Design in 1993. Ribas is currently Senior Lecturer in Photography at the University of Brighton. He has exhibited widely and is represented by Galeria ProjecteSD in Barcelona.

Notes to editors:

Belfast Exposed is Northern Ireland's only gallery dedicated to contemporary photography, maintaining a substantial archive and community photography resource. While working with many of the major international names in contemporary photography, the gallery retains its concern and attachment to place, promoting ladders of opportunity for emerging talent at home.
PLACE is a joint project between the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) and Belfast City Council (BCC) which opened in September 2004. The mission is to positively influence the creating and sustaining of excellent places and buildings, making Northern Ireland an environment of exceptional quality for all. PLACE is part of a growing international network of architecture centres and is the first of its kind on the island of Ireland.

During the Habitus exhibition period, a series of events will be held at both Belfast Exposed Photography and PLACE:

1) Oct 7 – Opening event: Connecting Spaces

PLACE / 6.45pm

Beginning in PLACE’s gallery space, local architect Ciaran Mackel will lead a 20 min walk to Belfast Exposed, discussing how the city centre and the peripheries have changed and shifted over time and the various factors that have shaped our contemporary city.

2) Oct 15 – Belfast Salon: Facing the Future

Chaired by Pauline Hadaway (Belfast Salon)

Speakers include, Kevin Bean (Lecturer, Instit. of Irish Studies, Univ. of Liverpool), Ciaran Mackel (Architect), Dominic Bryan (Director and Lecturer in Social Anthropology), Arthur Acheson (Architect)


The ambition to reinvent post-conflict Belfast as a modern, economically viable city seems constantly thwarted by the city’s troubled past and its fractured and disconnected character. While the centre is rebranded for visitor experience, retail, leisure and lifestyle consumption, neighbourhoods remain fixated on questions of cultural recognition, conflict management and healing the past. But why do we seem more concerned with bringing down walls and reconnecting communities than in dealing with economic problems? And could it be that opportunities to build authentic relationships across the city’s boundaries are being challenged by the very thing supposed to support them- relentless political intervention? As the economic crisis threatens to further downgrade Belfast’s metropolitan ambitions, has the time come for the city to ditch the fixation with its troubled past and face the future?

A Battle of Ideas 2009 satellite event:

3) Oct 22 – DIG

PLACE / 6pm

Exploring archaeological excavations that happen as a result of urban development and construction, including how individual artifacts and a site’s history can be integrated into a building’s design and function. Experienced archeologist, Audrey Gahan (Gahan & Long) will talk about the finds and features of the former Sirocco Works site in East Belfast where a number of glass kilns were discovered during the dig. Audrey has also worked on excavations during the development of Victoria Square, The Merchant Hotel and The Kitchen Bar.

4) Oct 24 – Artist Talk: Haunted Images


Libby Saxton's research interests include the interactions between film and continental thought, especially philosophies of ethics; post-war French cinema; representations of the Holocaust and the Franco-Algerian War; and the relationship between film, memory and testimony. Her book, Haunted Images, is the first in English to examine recent key disputes between high-profile French filmmakers, philosophers and historians about the value of photographs and film footage of the Nazi camps. It explores how the scarcity of war-time images of the machine of genocide has served as a catalyst for aesthetic innovation and ethical debate in Holocaust cinema. With this text in mind, Libby will discuss the uses filmmakers have made of a series of rare Nazi-era photographs of the killing zones at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Moving beyond rhetorics of 'ineffability' into the emerging field of ethical film criticism, she will argue that appeals to moral limits or interdictions on representation of conflict and suffering can distract us from the ethical responsibilities representation entails for filmmakers and viewers alike.

Libby Saxton is Senior Lecturer in French and Film Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. She is author of Haunted Images: Film, Ethics, Testimony and the Holocaust (Wallflower, 2008), co-author, with Lisa Downing, of Film and Ethics: Foreclosed Encounters (Routledge, 2009) and co-editor, with Simon Kemp, of Seeing Things: Vision, Perception and Interpretation in Film Studies (Peter Lang, 2002).

5) Nov 5 - Late Night Art Tour

PLACE and BELFAST EXPOSED / galleries open until 9pm

The exhibition is part of the Late Night Art Tours where guided bus and walking tours showcase the dynamic gallery scene in the Belfast.

6) Nov 24 – Artist Talk: Walid Ra'ad


Lebanese born Walid Ra'ad is a contemporary media artist. His works to date include video, photography and literary essays. All, in one way or another, deal with the contemporary history of Lebanon with particular emphasis on the wars in Lebanon between 1975 and 1991. The work is also often concerned with the representation of traumatic events of collective historical experience, and the ways film, video and photography function as documents of physical and psychological violence. Walid will present his work also in relation to the Belfast Exposed archive.

Ra’ad received his BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1989. He went on to complete his MA and Ph.D. in Cultural and Visual Studies at the University of Rochester in 1993 and 1996, respectively. He is also a member of the Arab Image Foundation.

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