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The Time Machine by Edgar Martins

Edgar Martins

Edgar Martins was born in Évora but grew up in Macau. In 1996 he moved to the UK, where he completed a BA in Photography at the London College of Printing & Distributive Trades, as well as an MA in Photography and Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (London).

His work is represented internationally in several high-profile collections, such as those of the V&A (London), the National Media Museum (Bradford, UK), RIBA (London), the Dallas Museum of Art (USA); Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon), Fundação EDP (Lisbon), Fondation Carmignac (Paris), among others.

His first book—Black Holes & Other Inconsistencies—was awarded the Thames & Hudson and RCA Society Book Art Prize. A selection of images from this book was also awarded The Jerwood Photography Award in 2003.

Between 2002 and 2014 Martins published 7 separate monographs, which were also received with critical acclaim. These works were exhibited internationally at institutions such as PS1 MoMA (New York), MOPA (San Diego, USA), Laumeier Sculptu

re Park (St. Louis, USA), Centro Cultural de Belém (Lisbon), Centro de Arte Modern de Bragança (Bragança, Portugal), Museu do Oriente (Lisbon), Centro Cultural Hélio Oiticica (Rio de Janeiro), The New Art Gallery Walsall (Walsall, UK), PM Gallery & House (London), The Gallery of Photography (Dublin), Ffotogallery (Penarth, Wales), among many others.

In 2010 the Centre Culturel Calouste Gulbenkian (Paris) hosted Edgar Martins’ first retrospective exhibition. Future exhibitions include Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon), The Wolverhampton Art Gallery (Wolverhampton, UK), amongst others.

Edgar Martins was the recipient of the inaugural New York Photography Award (Fine Art category) in May 2008. In 2009 he was also awarded the prestigious BES Photo Prize (Portugal), as well as a SONY World Photography Award (Landscape category). More recently, Edgar Martins was nominated for the Prix Pictet 2009 and awarded 1st prize in the Fine Art— Abstract category of the 2010 International Photography Awards.
Martins was selected to represent Macau (China) at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Shot between 2010 and 2011, The Time Machine is structured as a topographic survey of hydro-electricity generating plants.
Working closely with the EDP Foundation, I gained exclusive access to 20 power plants located across Portugal. Many of the power stations were built between the 1950′s and 1970′s, a time of hopeful prospects of rapid economic growth and social change. Their tacit raison-d’être was to fuel the country’s expansion and propel it into a prosperous future.
Forty years on, no more than half a dozen people, including specialists and cleaning and security staff, run places which, in some cases, were intended to house up to 250 workers just a few decades ago. These people and their families were intended to live in real villages, hubs of population and urban development in a future which, today, has ultimately emerged as uninhabited.
At each dam, computerised mechanisms now regulate the production and distribution of energy. This has alienated the concrete and immediate power by which reality is governed and concentrated the control of a complex hydroelectric system in a distant centre (thus lending consistency to the fantasy of machines ruling over man).
Although the power stations were conceived at a time when man and machine envisaged a shared future, today, the desertification of the technical sites which house the machines (as well as the natural and human landscapes where the dams were constructed), allude to the paradox of this impossibility.
Whilst the work in no way seeks to deny the role that these power stations may have played in the economic development of Portugal, the photographs are tense with unfulfilled expectations.
The Time Machine records objects and spaces whose grand and progressive designs testify of the scope and ambition of the vision they were built to serve. These machines and rooms, which simultaneously place us in genuine science-fiction settings and in an unavoidable field of nostalgia characterise a suspended time, that of the modern.In recovering a past of exciting technological innovation and optimistic belief in the future, these photographs suggest that they are not just about the generation of power but also of dreams and technological utopias.

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