Ibghy & Lemmens, vtls 004518389-79-1 (Fred Carpenter), by permission of Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales.

The Space of Observation is a new project by Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens that investigates the linkages between two different types of observational spaces: the photographic space of boxers’ portraits, where the prizefighter crafts a unique persona, and the Cartesian space of economic graphs, where statistical data is plotted to derive mathematical functions.

Thematically oriented around the reversal of the figure / ground relationship, the exhibition features a selection of photographs, diagrammatic drawings, and writings that put seminal and concurrent moments in the history of political economy alongside the last push of industrialization in Britain in the late 19th century which, fuelled by the demand for coal, led to the rapid development of Wales and other mining regions.

With sources that range from British statistician and economist William Stanley Jevons’ first attempts at plotting statistical data onto a Cartesian coordinate system, to archival photographs of Welsh working-class boxing heroes, Ibghy & Lemmens simultaneously highlight and question the codes and conventions that organise these spaces, and in so doing, point to the underlying layers that constitute the context in which these observations are located.

Accompanied by a small publication which further explores the connections between photography, statistics, industrialization, boxing, and the rise of econometrics, The Space of Observation builds on ideas and research Ibghy & Lemmens have been developing since 2008, which aim to actively re-theorize economic action and reclaim economy as a site of human invention and intervention.