Photographed across four years and four continents, The Canary and The Hammer details our reverence for gold and its role in humanity’s ruthless pursuit of progress. Through a mix of image, text and archival material, the third book by British artist Lisa Barnard provides a fascinating insight into the troubled history of gold and the complex ways it intersects with the global economy.
Gold is ubiquitous in modern life; the mineral is concealed at the heart of much of the technology we use and is, most fundamentally, a potent symbol of value, beauty, purity, greed and political power. The Canary and The Hammer strives to connect these disparate stories—from the mania of the gold rush and the brutal world of modern mining, to the sexual politics of the industry and gold’s often dark but indispensable role at the heart of high-tech industry.
Prompted by the financial crisis of 2008 and its stark reminder of the global west’s determination to accumulate wealth, Barnard sets out to question gold’s continued status as economic barometer amidst new intangible forms of technological high—finance. By addressing this through photography, Barnard in turn raises the question of how her chosen medium can respond to such abstract events and concepts. The result is an ambitious project, one sketching a personal journey in which she ultimately tackles the complexity of material representation in these fragmented and troubling times.