The history of America is the history of race relations. Mark Twain, one of America’s most acclaimed, admired and acerbic critics, spent a lifetime exposing the nation’s distorted view of itself. Nearly a century after Twain’s death, the vexed issue of race is once again on America’s front pages. Hurricane Katrina, the massive storm which swept through the Mississippi Delta and Gulf Coast Region in late August 2005, effectively destroyed New Orleans, and, in the process, all pretense of equality. Katrina, a Category 4 catastrophe, unleashed the insidious demon of racism, once again lifting the veil on America’s messy history. Profiteers of all colors emerged to secrete billions of dollars in funds and property away from the citizens of the Gulf Coast in an ongoing drama of local, state and national government self-interest, played against the backdrop of racial unease and overwhelming greed. If these twin evils are indeed American’s story, Katrina, sadly enough, is simply yet another chapter.
Natural disasters often offer the world the opportunity to tend to civilization’s abundant flaws with an outpouring of aid, money and, more importantly, a reassessment of our role on the planet. The tsunami that struck the Banda Aceh, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region during December 2004, pointed out both the ability and the desire of people to respond to tragedy. Yet, corruption and the lack of accountability have plagued much of the relief efforts, with millions of dollars missing, wasted or simply stolen.
Hurricane Katrina has shown us that America treats its victims no differently.
The extreme poverty exposed by Katrina proved a strange and dramatic revelation as a backdrop for a corporate America bent on figuring out how to cash in on the massive effort to restore New Orleans and the region. Estimates of $400 billion or more for government reconstruction projects in New Orleans and the Gulf Region will ensure that contractors friendly with Federal aid agencies (FEMA) walk away with the lion’s share of US tax dollars. Others will snap up abandoned and distressed lands in New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward and other areas. The effect, predict local observers, will undoubtedly be one of the biggest land grabs in US history and turn the color of New Orleans into a whiter shade of pale.
Stanley Greene (USA) and Kadir van Lohuizen (The Netherlands) decided to go there. They are two photographers who do not usually cover the mainstream news, but in this case it seems to be different. While working there, Greene and van Lohuizen met Paolo Pellegrin (Italy) and Thomas Dworzak (Germany). Due to the circumstances, lack of transport, petrol, food etc, they were forced to work very closely together. Four months later, Greene, Pellegrin and van Lohuizen decided to go back. They were shocked that very little had changed; most of the city was still empty and destroyed.
The exhibition has been designed and curated by Teun van der Heijden in Amsterdam.
Exhibition presented with support of the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.