The price assessment of a human being was deemed necessary to establish the amount to be paid to plantation owners as reparation to facilitate the abolishment of slavery. The planters calculated the economic worth of their plantations and were then renumerated by the British Government to grant their slaves’ freedom. The funds to secure payback were provided by the Rothschild family in the form of a £20 million pound loan highlighting the gross monetary imbalance during the 1800s cemented through colonialism, notwithstanding the grotesque contrast of a human’s fate contingent on aristocracy, lineage and birthplace. The Enslaved House Series merges ghostly images of an abandoned, dilapidated slave house in Exuma, The Bahamas with a lavish Rothschild Country Manor House, in Buckinghamshire, England. Built to entertain the elite and host royalty like Queen Victoria, Waddesdon Manor houses a renowned art collection epitomised by extreme wealth whilst the slave house does not. Painted Masterpieces by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, Francois Boucher and Antoine Watteau accompany exquisite furnishings by Jean Henri Reisener, Beauvais Tapestries and Sèvres Porcelain embodied with the history of opulence and privilege.
The Enslaved House Series adopts the concept of the pentaprism through the intentional inversion of where the two houses overlap and where their contents and external spaces either fuse or become disparate and disintegrate. Each print is composed of fragmented images of the two houses which seem to float into the picture plane and blend with details of art or landscape to reflect the past back at us, redefined and through multiple gazes. Like the extravagant Reisener chest of drawers, and Francois Boucher painting which form the room built especially for Queen Victoria which has been superimposed over the unkempt backyard with honeycombed rocks and bush surrounding the decomposing slave house . Overwhelming disconnect exists between what has been taught and the truths currently being unveiled through re-examination of the documentation of this period. Is the viewer seduced by the architectural grandeur of the manor house and divine Proserpina Fountain or horrified by the termites nest, rotted walls and goats grazing on the parched remains of the small cotton plantation?
The bafflement of the coexistence of these events in time reflects the pentaprism. Through the exploitation of the enslaved a small few were able to thrive and prosper re-shaping our world, both physically and economically whilst others suffered. Through the pentaprism light is distorted and reflected back as is the past in these prints. This past is further bounced through to the present in some of the images when a capsized Haitian migrant vessel is introduced recalling that the current crisis in Haiti is too a direct result of historical enslavement and environmental eradication.