Jack Banduch, Kate Beckingham, Kieran Butler and Thomas Robertson
Curated by Katherine Rooke
The foundations of the photographic medium seem to be rooted in a sense of doubt or distrust in regards to our natural processes of perception. The fascination with the ability of the photographic process to replicate and duplicate the observable world seems only to draw attention to the fallible nature of our own optical and memorial processes, the contingency involved in looking and looking back.
The act of photographing or image-making can be considered an in-between state, in which the artist is neither absent nor present; they view the world through a lens, a viewfinder, an image, a screen, their presence mediated by these technologies and processes.
“What you saw depended upon where you were when. What you saw was relative to your position in time and space. It was no longer possible to imagine everything converging on the human eye as on the vanishing point of infinity.”
The perspective from which vision is reproduced is determined by the spatial relationship of the photographer to the subject. The lens in between acts to guide the space of perception. The works of both Kate Beckingham and Thomas Robertson look to the orientation of the eye and body in space, and how this governs what we see, how we see it, and for how long.
Kate Beckingham’s suite of failed gallery furnishings considers an institutionalised mediation of perception. Drawing upon the form and, often arbitrary, function of the museum or gallery bench, Beckingham’s objects act as anchor points. Guiding both the path of movement and the path of vision adopted by gallery spectators, these furnishings mirror the function of the photographic lens. Beckingham’s forms prompt the viewer to consider their orientation in space, and how this location acts to mediate their point of view.
Thomas Robertson’s moving image work situates the viewer in a simultaneously fixed yet indistinct location. Looking at notions of surveillance and observation the mounted optical device, through which the video was filmed, anchors the position of the viewer. This allows only a sphere of seascape to be visible at any one point in time. Here, a device constructed to allow the observation of things too distant to be perceived by the human eye also acts to limit our viewpoint.
“But shall I be able to recognize them? And am I sure I never saw them again? And what do I mean by seeing and seeing again?”
The potential of ‘seeing again’ through the photograph as replica or reproduction may offer some sense of reassurance. A supplement or substitute in the inevitable failing of our own sight and storage of it, the photographic process acts to mediate our own processes of observation and recollection. However, in becoming conscious of the disjunction between the ‘second vision’ and its original time, place and context, the familiarity of repetitive experience becomes disconcerting. Are you ‘there’ or are you ‘present’ while looking back at a photograph of what was once the present? Or does this shift in space and time from the construction of the image, instead, signal a kind of absence?
The photographic image also occupies a place of contingency in its transformation of the three-dimensional into the two-dimensional, its ambiguous location in between the real and the rendered. The works of both Jack Banduch and Kieran Butler explore notions of reality and materiality. Manipulating and mediating our perception of the image surface, both artists draw attention to the multi-layered process of observation and interpretation.
Jack Banduch’s manipulation of found photographs emphasises the ways in which we observe and interpret information revealed in the surface of things. In a process of recovering and re-covering, Banduch’s layering of images atop found images quite literally ‘clouds’ our vision. Obscuring any orientating details of the original photograph, Banduch’s self-reflexive manipulations play on this dialogue between the real and the rendered, posing an inquiry into the perceived legibility and authenticity of the photograph.
The work of Kieran Butler also looks to the surface of things in order to challenge our perception of the real. Butler’s dissection of the screen and his manipulations to its surface results in a certain slippage in our perception of space. As the holes in the screen’s exterior sink into the moving image beneath, positive and negative space becomes intertwined and indistinguishable. This mirrors the stereoscopic effect within the video itself, and within Butler’s still images; the two-dimensional becomes three-dimensional, the doubled image becomes one.
Looking at, looking through, and looking out, the artists in 'OBSERVATION/MEDIATION' speak to the doubts surrounding our natural processes of perception. Through experimentation with photographic processes and ways of thinking, the works from each artist act as propositions for new ways of seeing.
- Katherine Rooke
J Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin, London, 1972, p. 18
S Beckett, Molloy, Faber and Faber, London, 2009, p.12