An Embarrassment of Stains is an exhibition of contemporary photographs by Dr. Ralph Darbyshire which document the architectural remains of Camp Joffre, also known as Camp de Rivesaltes, a former Vichy concentration camp in South-West France. The exhibition has been organised as part of The University of Northampton’s events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and is being held jointly at the University’s Avenue Campus Gallery and the Guildhall in Northampton.
Darbyshire has visited and worked at sites, camps and resting places across Europe as well as in El Salvador, Guatemala, Eritrea, Rwanda and Cambodia, and he contends that the remnants of the camp at Rivesaltes are unique and highly significant in their resistance to historical imposition and trauma seduction. The site is not physically restricted to the public, and the ephemera of recreational activities, as well as the dumping of refuse, iconoclastic.
The series of photographs in this exhibition extends the context of the contested landscape by illustrating the confluence of informal archival cruelty and extraordinary geographic allure, while examining the fragility of a deeply unwelcome, resilient location within a contemporary urban reality. It questions how an historic site such as this can fit so effortlessly into a modern semi-metropolitan landscape, and suggests a series of conjectural challenges which explore the very nature of sacred spaces and their place within the inevitable distancing of generational empathy.
The exhibition is accompanied by a booklet of the same title which includes an essay, Encountering Rivesaltes, by Professor Sam Smiles and an interview with Ralph Darbyshire by Melissa Appleton.
Dr. Ralph Darbyshire is Principal Lecturer and Subject Leader in Fine Art at The University of Northampton.