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Southbound Unsettles Assumed Narratives About the American South

On view at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, fifty-six photographers’ visions of the South over the first decades of the 21st century.

Sheila Pree Bright, Protesting White Nationalists at the "White Power" March in Stone Mountain Park, 2016. Atlanta, Georgia
Sheila Pree Bright, Protesting White Nationalists at the “White Power” March in Stone Mountain Park (2016). Atlanta, Georgia.

Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South comprises 56 photographers’ visions of the South over the first decades of the 21st century. Accordingly, it offers a composite image of the region. The photographs echo stories told about the South as a bastion of tradition, as a region remade through Americanization and globalization, and as a land full of surprising realities. The project’s purpose is to investigate senses of place in the South that congeal, however fleetingly, in the spaces between the photographers’ looking, their images, and our own preexisting ideas about the region.

Southbound embraces the conundrum of its name. To be southbound is to journey to a place in flux, radically transformed over recent decades, yet also to the place where the past resonates most insistently in the US. To be southbound is also to confront the weight of preconceived notions about this place, thick with stereotypes, encoded in the artistic, literary, and media records. Southbound engages with and unsettles assumed narratives about this contested region by providing fresh perspectives for understanding the complex admixture of history, geography, and culture that constitutes today’s New South. Through the exhibition, video, remappings, website, and catalogue—separately and in tandem—the Southbound project charts new courses to expanded imaginings for the twenty-first century South. All information can be found on the project website southboundproject.org.

Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South continues at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (161 Calhoun Street, Charleston, South Carolina) through March 2, 2019.