Cornford and Cross
Afterimage 2012

Aluminium substrate after removal and destruction of artists’ photographs

Afterimage is a set of works which we made by removing and destroying our photographs, which were previously conservation mounted onto aluminum substrates by John Jones of London. After Image III is produced from a set of four original photographs of the film and video work, ‘Childhood’s End’ (2000), which was first exhibited in a solo exhibition curated by Lynda Morris at the Norwich gallery, Norwich School of Art, and subsequently exhibited in ‘Utopias’ curated by Sarah Shalgosky at the Mead Gallery, University of Warwick in 2000. After the exhibitions, the photographs were returned to London and placed in storage. By 2012, speculation on property in London had made the pressure on storage space intolerable, and at last we decided to dispose of the work. Meaning to recycle the aluminium, we tore off the photograph, but when we saw the exposed metal we began an unexpected enquiry at the level of the substrate under the picture plane.

Afterimage embodies the process of its own (un)making: our removal and destruction of the photograph transforms the work from image to object, exposing the substrate as part of a wider support structure. With its high strength to weight ratio, aluminium is key to aviation and aerospace, yet its production demands vast quantities of energy that result in high levels of CO2 emissions. So using aluminium as a substrate for photographs links contemporary art as a form of conspicuous consumerism with the corporate infrastructure of military industrial globalization.

The relationship between value and scarcity is socially produced. The number of our photographs that we could remove and destroy was limited by the moment in time when we recognized the idea. As an element, aluminium signifies a certain purity. But its over-use has made it banal, and so dispersed attention from its nature as a profligate material, loaded with ecological and social debt. ‘Afterimage’ is complicit in destruction-as-production. Yet the work also proposes that by accepting material limits and the irreversible nature of certain decisions, the possibilities increase for transformation from one state to another.


Afterimage I (2012), II, III, IV (2014) Installation view, Brighton Photo Biennial 2014 Photo: Nigel Green

Aluminium-mounted photograph of the site-specific installation ‘Camelot’ (1996) As shown at ‘Tales of the City’, Artefiera Bologna, Italy, 2004

Aluminium-mounted photographs of the unrealized proposal ‘The End of Art Theory’ (2001) ‘Unrealized’, Nylon Gallery, London, 2002

Boeing 747 aircraft, London Heathrow, 2008 Photo: Paul Spijkers, Wikimedia Commons

Access self-storage depository used by Cornford & Cross South East London, 2009

Afterimage I (2012) Aluminium substrate after removal and destruction of artists’ photograph Artist’s flat, South London 2012

Work in progress towards Afterimage IV (2014) Artist’s flat, South London, 2014

Amazon rainforest land cleared for a bauxite mine owned by Alcoa Juruti Municipality, Para State, Brazil, 13 August 2008 Photo: Daniel Beltrà, Greenpeace

Indigenous people of the Dongria Kondh tribe in India protesting against the destruction of their land for bauxite mining by the Vedanta Corporation Photo: Survival International, 2013

Aluminium waste storage facility in Stade, Germany, 2012 Photo: Ra Boe, Wikimedia Commons

Afterimage I (2012) Aluminium substrate after removal and destruction of artists’ photograph Installation view, Brighton Photo Biennial 2014