Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Archival Turn...reflections on closing out the MFA

Well, the show has opened and the reception went off well. If you want to see pictures check out the link below.

The past week has been a little surreal. Going through this process as a culmination to a degree program is certain to make me reflect not only on this degree, but also to my BA reception back in 1998. Last week as I was putting the final touches on the show, I was listening to Toad the Wet Sprocket, one of my favorite bands from my time in college. I dont listen to them as much these days but would still list them among my favorites. It struck me as one particular album came up in the rotation that I was listening to the same album as I prepared my BA exhibition some 13 years later (how can it be 13 years ago?).

I have also been thinking about the ephemerality of art and the art show. UND has but one gallery and this time of year...really for the past 2 months, shows are churned through weekly. Roughly 2 BFA shows share a week and ideally MFA grads get one week to themselves which generally means you install the show on Friday afternoon or over the weekend after the last person has torn theirs down. While setting up the show is stressful and time consuming, it is a tremendous relief to see, in my case, the piles of work, transform the space and begin to embody your ideas. The review came and went without a hitch as did the reception. But already I see Monday, the end to this show coming all too quickly. The show represents the culmination of 3 years of work. For many artists, the work spans their last year or two in the program depending upon the speed with which they work and their medium. For me, this body of work was not begun in earnest until January...41 pieces made in 4.5 months. While many have are more minimal I still had to learn significant skills to reach my vision...namely frame-making and book binding. The center pieces to the show were 2 handmade books...something I had never made before.

I've also been thinking about what pushed me down this avenue of work. While there are many reasons, I've come to see the impact of my time in Cyprus with PKAP upon my work. The whole of the archive idea comes my time in the back of museum in Larnaca washing and photographing pottery. Their methods of cataloging and forms of storage (in what in my memory is simple pine trays) became the fundamental construction pieces for the show. My time in those off-limit areas re-affirmed the exclusivity of archives for the trained experts...Something that I tried to bring into the work...and by my own observance in the gallery, it seems to have worked.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Down to the Wire

The title says it all. One week from now I will be at a BFA opening downtown having just escaped my final review and oral examination. Yesterday I fought with wood to make shelves for nearly 8 still not sure if they will hang. I will find out tomorrow. After that marathon session, I didn't want to think of spending another night in the studio. So I am at home, working on title card formatting (fun) and planning a menu for the reception next Wednesday (actual fun).

Tomorrow I hope to test the hanging capability of the shelves, print my show posters, and finish my last two pieces. Sounds like an ambitious day...but with less than a week to go...they must all be ambitious.

I've attached a copy of the show poster.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Wild Ideas from Geoffrey Batchen

One of my favorite books on photography is Geoffry Batchen's Each Wild Idea. The book contains 9 essays wrestling with the histories of photography. My favorite chapter, not surprisingly, is on vernacular photography. Batchen's work attempts to elucidate the "complex matter of photography's conceptual, historical, and physical identity." He continues,

"Morphology is another of those issues that most histories of photography ignore. Indeed, the invisibility of the photograph, its transparency to its referent, has long been one of its most cherished features. All of us tend to look at photographs as if we are simply gazing through a two-dimensional window onto some outside world. This is almost a perceptual necessity; in order to see what the photograph is of, we must first repress our consciousness of what the photograph is. As a consequence, in even the most sophisticated discussions, the photograph itself--the actual thing being examined--is usually left out of the analysis. Vernacular photographies tend to go the other way, so frequently do they exploit the fact that the photograph is something that can also have volume, opacity, tactility, and a physical presence in the world. In many cases, the exploitation involves the the subject of the photograph's intervening within or across the photographic act. These subjects make us attend to their photography's morphologies, and thus to look right at rather than only through the photograph. In this sense, vernacular photo objects can be read not only as sensual and creative artifacts but also as thoughtful, even provocative meditations on the nature of photography itself" (Pages 59-60).

One of the trajectories of this show means to highlight is the physical nature of the photograph. Batchen's text was released in 2001, and since then the digital revolution has only picked up speed further minimizing the physicality of photographic objects. The vernacular photographic objects that I have collected over the past few months and will show intend to highlight the diversity from this relatively young medium. Varying in sizes and processes, the objects mounted in artifact trays, encapsulated in drawers, bins etc intend to suggest the physicality of the photo object. It has been interesting to me in this process the varying sizes, papers, and processes that were quickly cast away as the technology of photography advanced. Fewer and fewer sizes of film and prints were available over time to where we are now, if we print our images at all, have the options of 3.5x5, 4x6, 5x7 etc. Some of my favorite photos that I have collected are the smallest ones that are 2x3ish.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

MFA Exhibition

Well it has been some time since my last post on Valentines Day. I have been busy nearly every day since working on pulling this show together. I am now less than 2 weeks from my oral defense (Tuesday 26th) and reception on Wednesday the 27th.

Above is mock-up of my postcard which should arrive tomorrow and hopefully get turned right back around into the mail.

Pictured is one of 10 drawers of thematically grouped photos designed to draw attention toward Modernity's archive methodology.