All The Boys and Girls brings together the work of Ben Alper and Judith Shimer in an intimate meditation on the passage of time and the passing of us, an exploration of the way in which we fulfill our desire to capture and thereby preserve our own fleeting experiences with visual records that offer us comfort in their illusion of permanence.
Judith Shimer, Grow Up (2010), video, dimensions variable
ALL THE BOYS AND GIRLS
By Jordana Zeldin
These records serve as the source material for both Alper and Shimer’s distinctive yet complementary ruminations on our photo-documented past. Though they are simple and unremarkable things – old family albums that have been emptied of their contents, a home video filmed by the Shimer’s mother at the age of three – with a near-reverence for the originals, the artists gently and simply transform them into new objects that invite us to perceive them through the twin lenses of longing and loss.
Ben Alper’s large-scale scans are at once hyperreal and suggestive of the ephemeral. Framed without glass, they tease us with their texture and materiality while simultaneously denying us the tactile experience of the original object. Human traces, handwriting and bits of tape, give presence to the albums’ original owners, while their one-time inhabitants haunt the pages with ghostly footprints left by missing photographs. Alper’s scanning process is participatory, allowing him to take part in the archival act while re-presenting the albums for us to admire for their material beauty and function as enduring keepers of fleeting human histories.
Ben Alper, Erasure #15, 2010, pigment print, 40 x 32
The link (and dissonance) between the past and present is even more explicit in Judith Shimer’s reenactment of her three-year-old self on tape in her video short, “Grow Up” (2010). Her impression is at moments faithful and at others, flawed, reinforcing the impossibility of ever truly re-connecting now with then. Though they share the screen, the twenty years that divide Judy and Judith are untraversable; the little girl on the left is adorable, uninhibited, innocent and gone. With the voices of her mom, dad and sister heard off-camera having the kind
of conversations that might have peppered the domestic scenes that once filled the pages of Alper’s albums, the video functions as a bittersweet family portrait, that with the addition of the artist in the present, becomes a document of mourning.
Ben Alper and Judith Shimer’s works feel particularly pertinent to now, a time in which we are experiencing an increasing loss of the material in favor of the pixel, but they also transcend contemporary concerns. By working with private domestic documents never intended to be seen by the public, they lend a hand-touched intimacy to their exploration of a shared and universal wish, namely, not to die.
Curated by Jordana Zeldin, All The Boys and Girls, is part of Young Curators, New Ideas IV, on view at Meulensteen through August 24, 2012.