Cairo – The breaking up of the ice

Gallery 1

Cairo: the breaking up of the ice is a collaborative exhibition by Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan. The exhibition will include a new film installation inspired by the writings of the 19th century artist, ornithologist and frontiersman John James Audubon who is renowned for his epic publication The Birds of America. Cairo (2009) completes a trilogy of short inter-related films, made by Cartwright & Jordan during two expeditions alongside the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, that connect and contrast Audubon’s intrepid stories of Frontier America with their present day locations. Encompassing social, cultural & ecological history, the films reference themes of human exploration and romanticism; the past & present; our relationship to a disappearing wilderness; species extinction, and economic rise and fall.

Cairo draws upon Audubon’s graphic tale of the six desolate weeks his flatboat was stranded at the frozen confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, in 1809. Today this is the site of Cairo, in southern Illinois. The once prosperous Cairo is now a largely abandoned and derelict town, devastated over time by floods, racial segregation, social unrest, and severe economic decline. In their film Cartwright & Jordan set Audubon’s narrative of hardship against the abandonment and desolation of present-day Cairo’s commercial centre.

Alongside the film Cartwright & Jordan will present drawings, and found objects and ephemera relating to Audubon, Cairo and the Mississippi/Ohio confluence.

An accompanying publication, Delineations of American Scenery & Manners, will include a DVD of all three films in Cartwright & Jordan’s Audubon Trilogy, alongside commissioned essays, location photographs, and transcripts from Audubon’s journals.


Jacob Cartwright is represented by Bureau, Manchester, and his solo exhibition Stinkhorn is showing at the gallery until 30th January 2010.


Artist and independent curator Dave Griffiths talks to Cartwright and Jordan about both the film and the supporting work that makes up the exhibition Cairo – The breaking up of the ice.

Produced by – Manchester’s guide for the creative tourist.