The Indecisive Moment

The Indecisive Moment: Emerging Fluidities in Photomechanical Media

For decades all the images coming from a lens were received as a direct documentation of reality. Drawing from the indexical nature of mechanical reproduction, Modernism particularly praised the capacity for precision and truthfulness of the “photographer’s eye”, such as in the writings of American critic John Szarkowski. At the same time, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was claiming that photography should aim at the “decisive moment” – namely, the possibility of fixing forever the transiency of reality in a beautiful, perfectly composed image.

Today, the multiplication of mechanically reproduced images has become an overwhelming presence, with digital streaming and the continuous broadcast of the Internet, we are experiencing a new shift in the way images are produced and received. After 160 years of belief in photographic evidence, photo-based technology is now becoming instrumental in creating conflations of reality and fiction, past and present, intimacy and collectiveness. Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment” couldn’t be farther in the past: it is replaced by the conviction that the complexity of reality stretches beyond the restrictions of a single image or a single code. Nor can we believe in the absoluteness of the event anymore. Today, in order to recognize the present event as experience, we need to step back from the actuality of it and re-think, re-interpret, and re-stage what we saw — and possibly re-map it in a new net of connections, memories and stories.

The artists presented in this exhibition work with photomechanical media, whether the result is a still photograph or a video. They all testify that lens-based images no longer guarantee a one-to-one relationship with reality, but are becoming more and more similar to complex texts: to be explored, interpreted and questioned by the viewer.  These artists are not afraid of contamination; they move fluidly from video to photography, from analogue to digital – and vice versa. They intentionally introduce “noise” into the process of communication, using different forms of distortions, whether conceptual or visual.  Some use the traditional power of photography to enact the drama of personal memories; others suggest that the theater of images coming from the media is a whole family album.  They all are aware that what technology is offering to them is the endless possibility for reconfiguration and retelling — a fluidity in forms, concepts and roles similar to those existing in conversation.

As Walter Benjamin saw in the 1930’s, it is technology that generates a shift in perception and a new way of looking, not the opposite.

Paola Laterza

The Indecisive Moment: Emerging Fluidities in Photomechanical Media is curated by Paola Laterza and features artists Seth Daniel Caplan, Jennifer Colten, Danielle Kantrowitz, Philip Martin, T. Kelly Mason, Jessika Miekeley, Emily Moorhead, Esther Murphy, Christopher Ottinger and Kelly Wright. Join us at the Des Lee Gallery for the opening reception Friday, November 6, 2009 from 6-9 pm. The exhibition runs through November 22, 2009.

The Des Lee Gallery is located at 1627 Washington Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63103.  314.621.8735.  Gallery hours are Friday through Sunday from 1 until 6.

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