The Technical, Conceptual, and Formal – Liz Deschenes – Green Screen
A project of mine from 2001 is titled Green Screen Process. It’s a series of photographs that literally have green screens as their “subject matter.” The large green monochrome backdrop is a photograph, and could “act” as the thing that it is depicting. -What does the Camera know, but never capture?
In the ‘Passages’ (2009) series, nebulous large-scale colour prints confess their trajectory through an airport X-ray machine in the form of blurred lines and hazy irregularities. Echoing the processes of fingerprinting and body scans used in the increasingly politicized zone of the airport, the images are an appreciable evocation of the legislative and ideological transformations of a post- 9/11 world, as felt by every traveller. (The project is an intentional exercise stemming from an earlier accident, when film Beshty had taken of the deserted Iraqi Diplomatic Mission in Berlin was run through X-ray machines during his journey, and later shown at the 2008 Whitney Biennial.) They are also thoroughly charming abstract fields of fading colour: the new systems of corporeal degradation exercized in airports since September 2001, which establish a state of exception as a civic norm, are rendered oddly palatable.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin have been concerned with Undisclosed images, and the ability to employ it as a technique to point out a kind of simplistic politically charged seeing that occurs in traditional war photography. Abstract photography could be understood as photography that is free of representational qualities, but that would assume it as having the same linear history alongside the history of abstraction in painting. In my understanding, there really is not abstract photography, except from our sloppy use of the term ‘abstract.’ We call something abstract the moment it references some gesture that we recognize from a modernist painting, or if the photo doesn’t disclose to us right away what it is. So, the phrase abstract photography usually means, “This image has not disclosed its meaning/sense to me right away.” Undisclosed, is a more precise term. It describes those images that offer us objects “defined by their concrete, material existence, referring to nothing outside themselves.” To be undisclosed does not mean that disclosure is not possible—it just means that at this moment in time, that is not what is going on. These images are unidsclosed, for the purpose of revealing. It only reveals what is truly there, what it truly going on in the war, by avoiding the representational qualities.
John Hilliard – Camera recording its own condition.
John Hilliard – 60 Seconds of Light.
Both of these works are concerned with Light and its dual-function. Light discloses. Light conceals. Light, understood through the photographic processes, is has a dual-function. It is both that which reveals and that which conceals. The light in a photograph can make present the detail of something, but the absence of it can conceal something that we may know to be there. To bring it back to Gordon Matta-Clark, his Splitting work mimics the dual-function of light in photography. The saw that cut through the house both revealed a strip of light that echoed back to the domestic object that it once was and called forth a new understanding. Similarily, Hilliard is making work that reveals the functioning of the camera in its creation. Splitting cannot be understood apart from the act of the saw and what it did to the object that was there before the saw came into it. Hilliard’s work cannot be understood apart from the camera and its particular qualities of representation. The camera never records raw-data. The setting of the aperature, the shutter speed, etc… are all concerns of the photographer and could be called abstraction in the loose-sense.
Are We done Photographing Things?
If we shift our focus away from asking, “Is there anything left to photograph?” we can begin to explore ways of looking/understanding that doesn’t depend on things, but rather, the thing that makes their thingness present at all. Light, time, memory, space, objects, processes, understanding, looking, and seeing. These are not things that occur in the world of cups, tables, chairs, laptops, walls, windows, and atoms. They are a different kind of thing.
Exploring “Abstraction” without talking about it.
Can the way the vernacular language around photography, that associates anything that is not immediately disclosed, as abstract be used to our advantage. What does this implicit interpretative model bring to our toolbox as photographers?hing that makes our understanding of things possible.