From the bright flower fields of Afghanistan to the concrete jungle of London, Poppy traces the international path of heroin production and distribution. Depicting the dark and complex side of globalization, Poppy exposes the contexts and consequences of heroin’s journey from East to West, along with the addictions, conflicts, disease, crime, and poverty it leaves in its wake. The book and multimedia exhibition embody two decades’ worth of reporting from Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth, who have covered the rise of the Taliban, American intervention after 9/11, and the recent surge in opium production.
What began in the early 1990s as a series of news assignments evolved into a personal project and close collaboration between Knoth and de Jong. Their journey begins in Afghanistan, tracks through Central Asia, the Balkans, Dubai, and Somalia, and ends in London. This modern trade route, a dark version of the ancient Silk Road, comes alive through the voices, faces, and stories of farmers, soldiers, smugglers, prisoners, bankers, prostitutes, addicts, and border guards. These stories are easily overlooked or bypassed as too complex for mainstream media; for de Jong and Knoth, however, they were key components of this in-depth investigation.
As Poppy evolved to illuminate the network of heroin’s cultivation and distribution across the globe, it outgrew conventional and short-form journalistic formats, necessitating its own, more immersive experience. Connecting the dots between supply and demand, between those standing in Europe and the locations and conflicts that can seem so distant on news reports, the complexity and global scale of Poppyaddresses a story that is not simple to tell, but one that matters to us all.
The work of Antoinette de Jong (1964, NL) and Robert Knoth (1963, NL) is characterized by an autonomous, modern approach with a focus on long-term documentaries that attempt to uncover the complexity of various socioeconomic or political topics and their impact on the lives of “ordinary” individuals. In the resulting work, Knoth and de Jong seek ways to merge the hyperrealism of documentary with the abstract qualities of art and literature.
For two decades, De Jong and Knoth have covered numerous conflicts through background stories and reportages for various international media. Their projects have been exhibited worldwide; they have published a number of books and received awards from World Press Photo and the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis. They are currently working on Tree and Soil (launch 2016), a photography and video series of Japanese landscapes taken in the Fukushima region to explore the relationship between people and nature.
The Warsaw edition of Photomonth is part of the group exhibition A New Display: Visual Storytelling at a Crossroads, specially prepared for the festival by Dutch curator Iris Sikking. This exhibition will be presented in Krakow from mid-May to mid-June as part of the main festival program. It is made up of projects made by artists seeking their own ways of telling global stories in the era of media crisis and the overproduction of visual information. Apart from the traditional medium of photography, they use video materials, projections, radio recordings, and press clippings.
The Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroinexhibition is an enhanced, four-channel multimedia projection that will be available for viewing in the imposing interiors of the Dom Słowa Polskiego at 11 Miedziana Street in Warsaw from April 24 to May 3, 2016. The opening will take place on April 23 at 4 p.m. Entrance free.
After the opening, at 6:30 p.m. in the Studio bar, a meeting is planned with the project creators and the curator of the main program of Krakow Photomonth 2016, Lars Willumeit.
Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin
Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong
Curator: Iris Sikking
Dom Słowa Polskiego
ul. Miedziana 11, Warsaw
April 24–May 3, 2016, Monday-Sunday 1–7 p.m.
Opening: April 23, 2016, 4 p.m.
The organizers of the exhibition are the Griffin Art Space Foundation and the Foundation for Visual Arts.
Photo: Press materials: Robert Knoth & Antoinette de Jong, Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin. Courtesy of the artists