Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dolenni Hud

The Americanisation of the Welsh landscape has often been remarked upon. The economic might of the USA manifesting itself in a proliferation of powerful brand names, for instance. Occasionally it is pure fantasy wish-fulfilment like naming your resort Coney Island (Porthcawl) or Miami Beach (Aberavon). At other times it is just a weird physical similarity between certain Welsh landscapes and those in America (see Robert Haines's photo Tex Jones, for example).

Welsh writer Owen Martell and photographer Simon Proffitt have done the complete opposite - they have sought out a parallel Wales in America. Visiting towns in the States with Welsh names (Neath, Bangor, Cardiff etc) they have come up with a playful book of visual and geographical puns. In this part-travelogue, part-photobook we find the Llanerch diner; the Nanty Glo fire dept; and the Bryn Mawr travel agency. Street signs proclaim Pendyrus St and Llangollen Blvd. Cymric roots are more overt in a photo of the Neath Welsh Congregational Church. Notions of identity, cultural exchange, colonisation can all be taken from this book. What I particularly like in Dolenni Hud, though, is the subversion of expectations and the odd sense of dislocation that you find in their parallel Wales.

An audiovisual installation relating to this project has already been shown at The LAB gallery in San Francisco and Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. Dolenni Hud is published by Gomer and costs £12.99.

Oh, and if you've ever wanted to see Owen Martell going against the flow on a moving walkway then this must be your lucky day. Click here.