About the exhibit

MAY 2009: "And The Iron Did Swim” is the first installment of Mary Barnett’s multiphased project that documents the closing and demolition of Chattanooga’s most prominent remaining industrial site, U.S. Pipe and Foundry plant.

As a site, the U.S. Pipe and Foundry, quite emblematically embodies Chattanooga's early economic boom and the city's socioeconomic interdependence on the iron industry, dating as far back as 1830.

While the broader project explores occupational folklore, social history, and the end of the industrial era, “And The Iron Did Swim” begins with a focus on the emerging absence of the industrial worker, and the meaning of endings conveyed through the act of demolition.

Barnett began taking this series of photographs a few months after production had ceased in 2006, through and beyond the last days of demolition in 2008. The images chosen for exhibition were selected based on stories shared by the workers Barnett interviewed. The collection of images captures the short after-life of the emptied warehouse spaces and machinery rooms, and the peculiar assortment of memorabilia that remained housed in the buildings just before the demolition.

The series also takes into account the exterior of the historical site and its relation to its natural and urban surroundings. Finally it explores the ironic aspects of demolition that physically and visually distort the place of memory and yet brings to the eye's attention a new fascinating array of images, of the graveyard machinery and industrial debris: images which appear to have a life of their own.


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