Study Visit May 2015
The second part of my recent study visit was to an exhibition by the artist Clare Strand.
Pre reading about the exhibition describes Strand’s exploration of the ‘promise and the limitations’ of the photographic medium, although as I looked at the exhibition in person I took this to mean the medium of the photograph.
In contrast to Barthes (1980) assertion that the photograph (as a medium) is invisible to the viewer, Strand’s work sets out to make the focus the medium itself.
In reading about the exhibition the week before I visited, I didn’t expect to like the work, but I have to say I found it strangely engaging. Illustrating the point that no end of description can be a substitute for seeing things in the flesh.
Key exhibits included a number of ‘kinetic’ machines of the artist’s own design that create effects using original or found images. In these works the artist uses energy to impact on images, fundamentally changing them though the actions of the machine.
The Entropy Pendulum for example, slowly abrades the surface of a new photographs (taken from Strand’s archive of original and collected images) each day of the exhibition. At the end of each day the damaged image is then framed on the wall and a new image is inserted into the machine. The work accelerates the natural processes that damage a photograph, changing their nature and appearance. Time is accelerated and the finite life of the medium is simulated with all the connotations of what that might mean?
The Happenstance Generator is a strangely compelling device that I found myself drawn to more than any of the other exhibits. A large Perspex sphere fitted with a fan and containing many cut up images taken from Strand’s personal image archive. At timed intervals the fans drive the images around the sphere. The machine then rests leaving the images in a temporary alignment before the machine starts again. The transitory juxtaposition of the images in the machine creates short lived relationships. These were really quite interesting as just as you get a sense of the relationships the fan fires up and the images are all in motion again.
The exhibition was very thought provoking an I liked it emphasis on the ephemeral nature of the photograph as a medium, it challenged my thinking about photography and I will look further at the work of this artist.
Barthes, R. (1980) Camera Lucida, Vintage UK