August 13 - September 03, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday August 20, 7:30 - 9:30pm
Sloan Projects (Annex / A5)
Sloan Projects is pleased to present a group exhibition featuring photography and video in a new location at Bergamot Station. Recent work by scott b. davis, Isabelle Harada, Alia Malley and Adele Mills will be accompanied by classics from Peter Alexander, Julius Shulman and Timothy O'Sullivan.
ocotillo, ocotillo is a series of platinum prints that examine fouqueria splendens, a sonoran desert plant known as the ocotillo. the images in this series are photographed in proximity to the town of ocotillo, california—a remote desert outpost near the mexican border.
ocotillo, ocotillo pushes the photographic medium and 19th century printing to a contemporary place that is playful, inexact and unpredictable. the prints are presented as unique in-camera paper negatives, traditional film-based platinum prints, and combinations of positive and negative print diptychs. each work is produced as platinum/palladium prints, using the same process as platinum prints have been made since 1873.
the images are produced using a home made 16”x20” or 8”x10” view camera. collectively the photographs explore the light and space of the california desert, the medium of photography, and the physical limits of photographic materials.
ocotillo, ocotillo expands on 15 years of night photographs that explore a dark palette unique to platinum prints, specifically through the work in land of sunshine.
-scott b davis
I. A sweeping generalization: I am deeply interested in the way images operate.
II. Things I have been thinking about: the golden era of NASA’s Apollo program, the saved newspaper as artifact, John Ford’s use of day-for-night in classic westerns like The Searchers (1956), 19th century Survey photography of the American West, and the 1977 Mars landing hoax conspiracy film (and OJ Simpson vehicle) Capricorn One.
III. Living and working in the shadow of Hollywood has made me acutely aware of the cinematic use of landscape as “location.” In filmmaking, the idea of place is fluid— one place often acts as a facsimile for another. In David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962), for example, Spain posed as both Cairo and Jerusalem, while the famous Aqaba scene was built out of a nearby dry riverbed. In Robert Altman’s classic MASH (1970), a state park in Malibu, California, USA portrayed 1950’s Korea.
IV. At this point in history, our common experience is mediated by the way in which the material world has been previously filmed or photographed. I go to Death Valley and realize that it "looks like” Mars... or the Moon...or a scene from Star Wars. Captains of the Dead Sea investigates this role of filmed landscape in terms of story and place (or conversely, placelessness), and the continuum between documentary and fictional narrative.
V. Newsprint features prominently in the project, as newspapers (along with television) were a major media through which we first experienced images from space. Front pages were routinely saved as artifacts, as proof that “this happened on this day.” The inadequacies of these artifacts-- fading or yellowing over time, with imperfections inherent to the industrial printing process and systems of mass physical distribution— is compelling, especially in a contemporary context in which imagery is everywhere but ephemeral, disposable, and proves nothing.
The Lumière Brothers and the Long Take
The piece is a single, wide-angle long take—the original format of the original filmmakers. Instead of a train arriving at the station in 1895, we witness a presidential motorcade in 2015. I film from where I happen to be standing, a position which purports a pure objectivity but of course there’s no such thing. The action occurs unadorned, without additional meaning constructed by montage. The camera is static, the cars pass. The loop is synthesized, creating a cyclical, closed system. Moving pictures create their own time. We are in the present.
The Thing That Didn’t Happen
We are collectively conditioned by images— moving and still— that we’ve seen and internalized, so it’s impossible to film a presidential motorcade without bringing up Zapruder. He was in Dallas with his 8mm home-movie camera. Forty-seven years later I am in Los Angeles with my iPhone 6. We are both bystanders with motion picture cameras, witnesses to the same sort of ritualistic procession. But there is a what-if of spectatorship, and Zapruder’s 1963 footage has become probably the most scrutinized piece of film of the 20th century. Thankfully, in 2015 the event was uneventful. The president went home safely. I am interested in the absence of spectacle.
Structures of Power
What is revealed: we observe a partial portrait of a system of power (designed to prevent the very thing that Zapruder captured). There is a hierarchy of access in place, strict lines of authority and classifications of available information. Please stand back ma’am. I’m surprised they let me film at all. If I’d had a professional-looking camera or tripod, instead of a handheld smartphone, there may have been questions. Any apparent apparatus of “serious” photography denotes a level of intentionality, and always causes institutional alarm: who are you and how will those images be used.
" . . . As Bruno Latour conjectures in his essay Has the Critique Run Out of Steam, “… matter represents the refusal to think away spatial and temporal characteristics and to arrive at the bare concept of an individual entity” (245), holding the potential for critique in that it allows itself to be re-contextualized in time and space while retaining a sense of history and origin.
. . .
Online, a light has gone on behind Lacan’s two-way mirror, heightening the experience of its panoptic nature; inciting us to revisit, edit and confuse our narratives without allowing time for criticality. Like quantum chaos, banal images and statuses appear and are lost without enough time for us to make sense of why. Simultaneously, we are bodies that are exponentially attempting to fit into the constraints of an ephemeral world. To dream of the singularity as if there is no longer merit to the material individual, we must forget that it is inherent in our current process of understanding. . . . "
I worked on one photograph extensively. It was an image of a scene depicting a critical moment in my life that I most wanted to re-experience.
I was adopted as a baby. 40 years later I walked into a room to see her for the second time. Listening to me explain who I was and how I found her she reached for my hand gently turning my wedding band around my finger. Her expression was blank as if she didn’t understand.
Then she said “Its good to know you’re ok” and returned to the canvas on the table in front of her and continued painting.
I planned to document everything that day but in the midst of my emotional distress, I forgot to. Three months later she died of Alzheimers.
I was left with only one photo that I took of the place where we met just before going inside. Later on I noticed the sign in the photo read “Heritage Hut”.
A piece of one of her paintings is in Birdword. The Heritage Hut sign is in Recent Findings.