the absence of the origin of its likeness
Has this photograph been digitally altered? Did the scene it show actually occur? Since the photograph’s invention, people have been enamored by the image’s resemblance to its subject. But changes in the field of photography like digital imaging and editing have brought this into question. In the absence of the origin of its likeness, artists Laura Dutton and Arnold Koroshegyi examine these issues, using both analogue and digital technologies, to destabilize traditional readings and open up new avenues for making and looking at photographs.
the absence of the origin of its likeness opens Friday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Open Space. The exhibition runs until Saturday, December 10. A panel discussion will be held on Saturday, November 5 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The speakers include Trudi Lynn Smith, Cedric Bomford, Brandon Poole, Arnold Koroshegyi, and Laura Dutton, with Lynda Gammon as the moderator.
Deliberately drawing attention to the condition of the photograph’s making, Dutton and Koroshegyi’s works both speak to our denaturalized world and the artists’ urge to represent the unrepresentable. Dutton’s work starts with photographs of urbanscapes and Koroshegyi’s work begins with artificial flowers; however, through the formal, conceptual, and material possibilities of photography the end result is a form of abstraction that opens up multiple meanings.
We face the imperative to understand anew today what it might mean for photography to “move beyond representation.”
(Hito Steyerl from her essay ‘Documentary Uncertainty’)
Since its invention, we have been charmed by the photograph’s mysterious resemblance to that which is being photographed. Its ‘likeness,’ its so-called ‘indexicality,’ and its ‘truth value’ have all to some extent been accepted as core to the medium. Changes in the field of photography, particularly in the area of digital imaging, have brought much of this into question. We have a nagging doubt and insecurity as to whether what we see in the photograph is ‘true,’ ‘real’ and ‘factual.’ Has this image been digitally altered or perhaps completely constructed? Did this scene actually occur? As our acceptance of the relationship of the image to the referent is severed, our uncertainty mounts as to the origin of the subject.
As I consider Walead Beshty’s essay ‘Abstracting Photography,’ the phrase ‘the absence of the origin of its likeness’ resonates.
By destabilizing traditional readings and by using both analogue and digital technologies, the two artists in this exhibition examine the changing relationship between photography and its referents, to open up new avenues in the ways we make and view photographs.
In Laura Dutton’s Quietly at the Window series, large light boxes that sit on the floor house low-resolution highly pixelated photographic images. These photographs have apparently been cropped from much larger urbanscapes, but that referent has disappeared due to the fact that they have now been enlarged beyond recognition. Digitally reversed into a negative and then printed with an inkjet printer onto acetate, these now degraded, colour-saturated, abstracted images take on a painterly quality. We attempt to look through these windows to the natural world beyond; however, this is not to be. Soft light emanating from the box illuminates the colours, and our experience is closer to reverie than recognition. For Night Comes On, a tower of black boxes encases small video screens, each a window into an apartment at night. Figures move about within the spaces, often coming to the window as if peering out at us only to retreat once again into darkness. We peer into each screen hoping and expecting to capture something of their lives. They, however, seem hopelessly destined to a desperate kind of sameness.
Reinterpreting the traditional mise en scene genre of flower painting, Arnold Koroshegyi’s Artifice consists of a series of large-scale, high-resolution, colour-saturated photographic prints of flowers. Upon closer inspection, this lush and colourful foliage reveals unmistakable streaking artifacts and pixelated blurs. In fact, the ‘still life’ depicted here has been photographed using artificial plastic flowers and other synthetic props. This ‘photograph’ has been created from four separate passes of a homebuilt scanner (one in black and white, another using the red filter, then the blue filter, and finally the green filter), the focal plane exposing a series of linear motions over short intervals of time. Accompanying the Artifice series is (re)iteration, a nine-minute video loop that brings together information aesthetics, locative media and digital photography. For this work, an FBI surveillance software program dictates the erratic and seemingly arbitrary movement of the video camera as it records information from painterly floral photographs. Subjecting them to its volatile and artificial vision, the video camera captures an interplay of moving and static images that forces our eyes to shift strangely across the screen.
Artifice, (re)iteration, Quietly By the Window and Night Comes On all look at the tensions between photography, painting and digital technologies. Dutton’s works start with photographs of urbanscapes, and Koroshegyi’s work begins with artificial flowers; however, through the formal, conceptual and material possibilities of photography, the end result is a form of abstraction that opens up multiple meanings. Each represents a yearning, a search for a kind of beauty through a filter of technology. Deliberately drawing attention to the condition of the photograph’s making, Dutton and Koroshegyi’s works both speak to the artist’s urge to represent the un-representable, while also questioning and playing with our ideas of the ‘natural’ world.
-Lynda Gammon, October 2016
Quotes from Panel Participants
"I'm interested in the window as a symbol of liminality: here/there, inside/outside, public/private, light/dark. The window is a threshold through which light passes, much like the camera lens. And like a photographic image, the window frame transforms the everyday into pictures."
“I have always been drawn to the blurred element in a photograph. To me, the out-of-focus artifact leaves traces of the transformation of reality into an image, into artifice, and it opens up questions about the making of a photograph.”
“In my work, streaking artifacts and pixilated blurs seek to shed light on the formal contradictions in photography. These visual ruptures create tension between the painterly quality and the digital technological imprint, pushing the viewer to question how we read the out-of-focus, the blur, the loss of ‘information’ in photographic images.”
Trudi Lynn Smith
"I am interested in pushing photography beyond fixed images on substrates to radical re-embodiments of camera forms. My work argues for formal aspects of photography -- a relationship between durable images and electromagnetic radiation -- to be reworked to emphasize the materiality of the unfixed image."
"I started working with construction as a way to return to making photography through a back door. Dazzle patterning was used for camouflaging naval vessels in WW1. Instead of trying to blend in with the ocean, they were painted in amazing geometric patterns that would theoretically dissolve in the haze on the horizon. We put our own dazzle camouflage pattern onto the siding of the Deadhead structures. It was treating photography in a manner that came close to the act of construction."
"The beginning of the work is always variable: something will begin to interest me and I will start to collect images, sound recordings, and physical material. I will also find people who have a relationship or stake in the interest and conduct interviews. Then, working with video, sculpture, and the installation space, I retrace the research process-- I try to develop the coincidental connections between people, places, and events, and to use this network of connections to make more general observations about history, technology, and architecture.”
Panel Questions moderated by Lynda Gammon
Since its invention we have been charmed by the photograph’s mysterious resemblance to that which is being photographed. Its ‘likeness’, its so-called ‘indexicality’, and its ‘truth value’, have all to some extent been accepted as central to the medium. Changes in the field of photography, particularly in the area of digital imaging, have brought much of this into question. We have an irritating doubt and insecurity as to whether what we see in the photograph is ‘true’, ‘real’ and ‘factual’. Has this image been digitally altered or perhaps completely constructed? Did this scene actually occur? As our acceptance of the relationship of the image to the referent is severed, our uncertainty increases as to the origin of the subject. In her essay ‘Documentary Uncertainty’ Hito Steyerl says: We face the imperative to understand anew today what it might mean for photography to “move beyond representation.”
It seems to me for all of you, the final work that you present, plays with its relationship to that which is in the world being captured, be it a plastic still life, an apartment window at night, or a landscape image. Can you discuss this play?
I think all of your work deliberately draws attention to the condition of the photographs making, its production as well as its presentation convention,…. the material form it eventually assumes.
One of the things that I find interesting is the vast array of different cameras or should I call them image capturing devices as well as the wide range of printing, production and presentations strategies you have employed from 2-D to sculpture to installation to performance, video and so forth. It is no longer merely a matter of digital versus analogue… it has much wider range than that.
Can you speak to the materiality of the image and perhaps a little about the process by which it eventually comes to presents itself “exhibitionally”.