I write this from a place of temporary captivity. I am prisoner of a Chinatown bus. Surrounded by more information I never wished to know, I am hostage to that teenage boy’s metaphors for life, the details of that musician’s finances, of doors a man swears to have locked and languages I can’t identify. Information that was never meant for me is taking over my ability to hear my own. I am the capture of a large moving telephone booth. This is an all-too-familiar feeling of exhibitionism and privacy invaded.
Craving something less knowable, I am drawn towards the mysterious, the inexplicable; that which I cannot immediately access. I find myself identifying with estranged objects and experiences – abstractions.
I can lose myself in Amy Fung-Yi Lee’s video of falling dust, as something so simple and overlooked transforms into the horizon of a familiar urban landscape. This might suggest that despite over-sensitization there is still space for pause and imagination.
In Freya Powell’s sunset photographs made with a pin-hole camera, I find the beauty in recording something that cannot otherwise be experienced by the human eye. To create the images she must relinquish control over the outcome, providing an experience that can only exist in its recorded state.
I am intrigued by Asa Bigger’s subversion of the security monitor. By assertively presenting his body to the camera he counters the typical role of the passive subject to the clandestine surveillance camera.
Kim Hoeckele seduces the viewer with her abstract photographs reminiscent of post-war New York school paintings. Soon after their beauty attracts, repulsion sets in as you realize the images depict the severely polluted water of Newtown Creek.
These quiet moments of transgression are actually loud subversions, set in the context of the individual’s relationship to contemporary information. These artists do not passively accept the original intentions of their devices – machines for recording images and sound, but rather break free from their assumed indexical relationships. They take possession of their devices and make the recordings their own.
This gesture is not new – to use the machine to create the abstract. Its precedent lies in Man Ray, Aaron Siskind, John Cage and others. Its relevance today is what changes the ground. Why now? At least part of it must relate to a desire for the last word. Who is captive of whom? Despite artificial intelligence and cloning, despite our ability to capture the real through direct copies, replacements and reproductions, our human aspiration to trump or surpass might allow us to not become obsolete.
Christina Freeman. 11 May 2011