Le Mois De la Photo a Montreal: September 5-October 5, 2013

By Somerstein, Rachel | Afterimage, January-February 2014 | Go to article overview

Le Mois De la Photo a Montreal: September 5-October 5, 2013


Somerstein, Rachel, Afterimage


If for much of the twentieth century photographs' has been, at its core, about the "decisive moment," the thirteenth installment of Le Nlois de la Photo a Montreal suggests that the met hum is moving in new directions. The traditional photographic still was rare in this iteration of the biennial, thoughtfully curated by Paul Wombell and titled "Drone: The Automated Image." Instead, the exhibition, comprising work by some twenty-five Quebecois and international artists installed in fourteen sites throughout the city, privileged the mechanism of picture-making (endoscope, large-format scanner, robotic dog) and the digital and mechanical sources of those images (intercepted (In cue footage, Google Street View, and social media). This zeal for technology recalled the publicly celebrated, rapid technological changes of the turn of the last century, when electric lights at the Paris (1889 and Chicago (1893) Expositions sent revelers agog, exposing new ways of seeing. In a similar vein, this show's surfeit of opportunities to extend human vision revealed ecosystems. altitudes, and planes of seeing oni recently accessible to the human eye.

In Michael Wesely's photographs. time was one of those "unseeable" regimes made plain. For each of his photographs. Wesely kept his camera shutter open for nearly two years. Taken mostly in Berlin in the late 1990s, these scenes reveal the passage of tina* by showing the changing skyline, the skeletons of cranes. the rise of new buildings, and the disappearance of others. Beams of sunlight, the residue of the ever-changing positions (tithe earth and sun, are also evident, like a palimpsest of seasons. These shifls and changes are the more pronounced given that some structures, like the trees in Aisdanter Phaz, (27.3.1997 13.12.1998) 0997- -98), remain unchanged.

Wesely's photographs are at once strikingly energetic and ghostly and uninhabited. This formal paradox aptly describes Berlin, which had only been unified for ten years at the time the images were taken. In that way, the photographs offer a larger commentary on time's passage. depicting the desire to build anew while also preserving the city's many layers of' (painfuL history--a dialectical tension fundamental to the city's fabric where portions of' the East Side Gallery, the longest freestanding area of the Berlin Wall, were recently torn down--amid protest--to build luxury condominiums.

Panoramic seeing was another theme here, specifically aerial, distant points of' view that require technology to furnish their perspectives. These views, like Trevor Paglen's drone footage (intercepted by an amateur satellite hacket-and Thomas Ruff's images of Mars's crust, are fundamentally beyond the human scale. Similarly, Raphael Dallaporta's series Ruins (Season 1) (2011) showed aerial views of Afghanistan stitched together from hundreds of digital photographs that archeologists used to locate ancient sites, such as a citadel from the Achaemenid period (roughly 550 to 330 B.C.). Although conceptually compelling, these pieces were not as visually arresting as some of the other work on view', perhaps given that satellitic viewing, as Lisa Parks puts it in her masterful! Cultures in Orbit (2005), has become awell-known televisual trope. Thus, more compelling than these photographs was the story--told through related ephemera--of Dallaporta's lost drone, which the artist had purchased for less than seven thousand dollars and kit ted out with a camera. Dallaporta's downed drone was ultimately found and returned, memory card intact; as in a scene from the theater of the absurd, a second Downed drone. which belonged not to Dallaporta but to the German government, also turned up during his search.

Custom-built drone cameras also opened up otherwise inaccessible perspectives of the natural world. For her video installation From Here to There (2003), Jona sterbak affixed a lightweight camera to a Jack Russell terrier named Stanley, and then took him on a voyage by car, ferry, and foot to a wintry cottage. …

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