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The exclamation point at the end of “Go for Gold!” is about as ironic as they get. The photographic series by Gesche Würfel—a German-born, U.K.-educated, Boston-based photographer—documents the transformation of the Lea Valley, a depressed area of East London that is undergoing a major redevelopment to host the 2012 Olympics. Her sense of irony doesn’t stop with the exhibit’s name: Würfel, a trained city planner, titles her images by what they will be when the construction is done. A tree standing amid a quiet pasture, for example, becomes “Media and Press Centre 1.” While other settings are similarly idyllic, such as a field of buoyant purple thistles, many of her images range from distinctly unpleasant (an unnaturally green river entombed in concrete walls and a moldy, translucent roof) to outright decrepit (a series of condemned sheds). Würfel’s documentary instincts are astute, and her goal of watchdogging the bulldozer of urban renewal is laudable. But her mission’s clarity is undercut by the neighborhood’s seemingly intractable dilapidation, a muddle exacerbated by the absence of actual inhabitants to empathize with. Unfortunately in “Go for Gold!,” ambivalence triumphs over outrage.
THE EXHIBITION IS ON VIEW 4 P.M. TO 8 P.M. FRIDAY, 1 P.M. TO 6 P.M. WEDNESDAY AND SATURDAY TO MARCH 20 AT CIVILIAN ART PROJECTS, 1019 7TH ST. NW. FREE. (202) 607-3804.