• The Aftertaste of Culture

    Date posted: April 7, 2010 Author: jolanta
    My artwork deals with different recording and collecting cultures, ranging from taxonomic forms of documentation to casual snapshots. I view my practice itself, a practice predicated on the labor-intensive re-recording of photographic information using manual means, as the manifestation of a recording impulse. I am also a habitual collector of images. The criteria I use are not fixed, and they tend to evolve and change over time as I constantly re-classify and order the images within my archive. Those that survive this editing and re-editing process become models for paintings or drawings.

    Ross Hansen

    Ross Hansen, Memento Mori, 2007-2008. Color pencil on paper, 137 x 103 cm. Courtesy of Stephane Simoens Contemporary Fine Art.

    My artwork deals with different recording and collecting cultures, ranging from taxonomic forms of documentation to casual snapshots. I view my practice itself, a practice predicated on the labor-intensive re-recording of photographic information using manual means, as the manifestation of a recording impulse. I am also a habitual collector of images. The criteria I use are not fixed, and they tend to evolve and change over time as I constantly re-classify and order the images within my archive. Those that survive this editing and re-editing process become models for paintings or drawings.

    I work with formulaic or generic images, images that reveal or represent a wider culture of document making, that reflect certain aspects of the human condition. The carp fisherman’s photograph of a prize catch is just such an artefact. These fish are hooked out of the water—held aloft in the hands of their conquerors, photographed, and then returned. These mediated hunting trophies can be viewed like a contemporary form of taxidermy, arising from a vestigial, hunter-gatherer’s desire to control and contain nature.

    Photography, taxidermy, and realist painting are all used to document, with different degrees of veracity, the presence of their subjects; each one guarantees however, the presence of a maker. To record is to be present. Today, increasing numbers of people are documenting and recording all aspects of their lives in photographs, many also choosing to display the results online, attaining a kind of virtual immortality in so doing. Such images, especially those taken the most casually—with a mobile phone, are rarely high-quality or conventionally “good” photographs. Their importance lies not in their visual qualities, but in their very inconsequentiality. This is recording for recording’s sake, an action undertaken by a species uniquely aware of its own mortality.

    My working method involves a process of dissection. I take my source photographs apart, assessing not only their visual properties, but also the layers of meaning that I find in the image. Then I reconstruct the image, carefully selecting the media, scale, and process of manufacture to draw out a particular resonance or association for that image.

    On a superficial (reproducible) level, the resulting artworks often look very much like their models; however, they fundamentally belong to a different order of objects. These are hand-made objects, built up, and labored over for hundreds or even thousands of hours. In a sense, what the reconstructed image looks like is of less importance to me than what the image is, and the impulses it represents. In translating the images from the source photographs into different media, and removing them from their original contexts, a distance is created between the viewer of the artwork and the ostensible subjects of the image. This small delay in the reception of these images is what I seek, a space within which the viewer has the opportunity to consider the different recording processes, and documentary impulses of photographer and artist as the real subject of the work.

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