Conversation with Kate Greenberg, curator of the exhibition “Beyond the Barrier” on view at CCNY through April 6th, 2013
“Beyond the Barrier” is a very concise exploration of connections between photography and science fiction. The works in the exhibition pit colored light against shadow, certainty against uncertainty, challenging the photograph’s standard assertion of reality and forcing the audience to re-examine truth.
Read more here.
work by Adam Ryder (L) and Brice Bischoff (R)
work by Dillon DeWaters
work by Dillon DeWaters (L) and Leah Beeferman (R)
photographs courtesy of John Stanley/CCNY
MATTE: How did you become interested in the relationship between science fiction and photography?
KG: I became interested in the relationship between science fiction and photography after viewing works by Dillon DeWaters and later Adam Ryder, who are both in the show. These artists were both dealing with a variety of sci-fi themes in their work and I decided to dive further into this genre. I am not a science fiction expert at all so it was a learning process for me.
MATTE: Why did it come down to these four artists? How do their perspectives differ?
KG: As a curator I love researching artists so this show is a mix of research that proved to pay off. I knew both Adam Ryder and Dillon DeWaters through graduate school, and had been a fan of their work for some time. I think once the wheels were turning from what I saw of their work I decided to research other artists who would fit into the exhibition. Leah’s work I found through research and we had a few friends in common. Her earlier work, “Journeys Into the Unknown”, really spoke to me for this exhibition but we decided to include new work. For me curating is always a collaboration and this is most true with Leah’s work, as she had been working on these new pieces influenced by her recent residency in the Artic Circle. I first saw Brice’s work on an album cover and tracked him down. Luckily I was able to meet him on a trip to Los Angeles last year.
In terms of perspectives, I think each artist presents a very different entry point into the world of science fiction and art. The show includes a range––references to popular culture and B movies, blurring of fact and fiction, tabletop abstractions, and how scientific data is represented. These artists can each take the viewer somewhere very different and it’s my hope that you’ll want to go further with them.
MATTE: Why now?
KG: The artists included here are all working in a variety of ways to push their mediums forward. The moment I started to work on the exhibition proposal I kept seeing art that was dealing with similar themes in various avenues––magazine issues dedicated to the topic, books and exhibitions. I think it’s very of the moment and glad that this show happened when it did.
-MATTE Magazine for CCNY
Blue Boobs, c print colorgram, 2012
A Conversation with Pia Howell
Using traditionally photographic materials to create vividly colored abstractions in the darkroom, Pia Howell sidesteps the need to photograph something real. In doing so she perhaps makes photographs that are more direct, translating her good-humored presence onto type-c paper in a fanciful yet cannily culturally conscious language of mark and gesture.
Wild! Berry, c print colorgram, 2011
MATTE: When did you decide to start painting with the darkroom? Was there a time when you made “straight photographs”? If so, what prompted the transition?
PH: I got the idea to start painting in the darkroom a couple of years ago after thinking a lot about the “painted” frosting designs on pop tarts. I wanted to recreate the wild berry pop tart design as a c print, and the best way to do that was to paint it onto a large transparency. From that experience it became clear that there was a lot to work with from painting transparencies.
Yes I learned traditional printing from negatives in both black and white and color, and there was a brief time when I was making “straight” photographs. The urge to experiment came largely from a frustration with having to find subjects and content to photograph (as opposed to creating it), as well as an interest in facing the materiality of photography rather than keeping it latent. I’ve always been most driven to work in photography but I might actually be more of a painter or sculptor at heart?
Black Smiley, c print colorgram, 2012
Sad Confusion, c print, 2012
Witch Work, unique c print, 2012
MATTE: Can/do you edition your pieces, or are they one-off?
PH: Editioning my work is probably closer to printmaking than photography. Though the printmakers I’ve met seem to be hardcore perfectionists about editions. Personally I feel like each print I make is technically unique since I am moving all the components (transparencies and set up) between making each print, but for exhibition purposes it makes a lot of sense to create editions. My idea of an edition can get pretty loose. But as long as 2 prints look almost exactly the same and are going for the same effect, I think they are an edition even if they are registered slightly differently.
Red Marks, c print colorgram, 2009
Abstract Olympics, collage, 2011
Red Marlboro, unique c print colorgram, 2009
MATTE: How do you come up with the color of palette for a specific work?
PH: I’ve always made a lot of little abstract paper collages, and through that have been very interested in strange color combinations. I have palettes in my mind that I’m working towards…In the darkroom it can be difficult to achieve a specific subtle color, say a pastel for example, and at the same time adding another color adds considerable complexity to a print, so often the palettes of c prints I make are more limited than I’d like them to be eventually.
MATTE: How do you begin to compose an image?
PH: Yeah that’s hard because my images transition between so many materials. I usually just have to jump in and start painting something, which often works when I want something to look chaotic or careless. Sometimes I make a composition I like immediately; other times I have to rework a composition by combining elements from different paintings, scanning, enlarging, copying, tracing, photocopying etc.
Flag, c print colorgram, 2011
MATTE: Why are you a member of CCNY?
PH: I love CCNY- it’s such a unique resource. I became an intern towards the end of college, and stayed on so that I could keep working in the darkroom after I was out of school. Analog darkrooms, especially color darkrooms, are so rare these days- I hear all the time about art institutions disassembling their color darkrooms. This may sound crazy but I think it’s premature; there is still a lot of potential for interesting work to be made through analog printing.
-MATTE Magazine for CCNY
photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
1989 New York, NY
I officially consider Deanna Havas to be my muse. She has a certain “I don’t give a fuck” that combined with very real knowledge and a staggeringly evolved and cohesive personal aesthetic frequently leads to good art. She is constantly at work, and the things she makes are things you’d like to have around because they exude the same kind of shameless and pokingly subversive wit. A notable entity on the internet, Havas offers her very real self as a mirror of pixels and tweets. Working with the world wide web she injects the usually cold arteries through which our digital lives flow with uniquely human insight and warmth.
This month New Museum affiliated non-profit Rhizome presents a new piece by Havas entitled “Affiliate Program” as part of their “The Download” series. The program allows you to earn back the membership fee you pay to Rhizome by directing traffic to her website.
“The Download as a curatorial program makes it so you can only download the monthly projects if you join, and the profits are essentially split between the artists at the end of the program,” Havas explains. “This stood out to me as a pretty unique feature of this curatorial project so I was interested in engaging with that aspect. Alternative economies are often proposed as a solutions for commodifying net based works which continues to be an ongoing theme, and affiliate marketing occurred to me, not only because its kinda sketchy, but because its unique in the sense that its an economic system indigenous to the internet.”
Found Abstract Render, 2012
Iphone/Ipad composition, 2012
Iphone/Ipad composition, 2012
Havas sometimes culls things from the internet, sometimes creates things in exhaustively painstaking detail from scratch, and often mixes both. Everything she creates is unified by very informed engagement with culture in general alongside very specific subcultures. In her recent piece “Mecha Composition” Havas summons a digital golem of cyber detritus to champion the obsessions of nerds everywhere.
Mecha Composition, 2013
“Mecha Composition also fits in with this otaku/loner/ ‘content creation as escapism’ them that I’m interested in lately. Otaku is a somewhat pejorative loanwoard from Japanese basically describing basement dwellers who are obsessed with anime, video games , etc. In Japan the existence of this subculture incited a moral panic (due to a serial killer who was allegedly otaku), which seems somewhat absurd- the idea that someone who is afraid to leave their home possess a threat to society. Hikkomori is the Japanese word describing a ‘phenomenon of reclusive adolescents or young adults who withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement.’ The causes of this phenomenon have been attributed to mental/developmental disorders such as autism, peer bullying and the demands of the education system in Japan. They encompass a larger group of ‘freeters’ (expression for people between the ages of 15 and 34 who lack full-time employment or are unemployed, excluding housewives and students) that grew out of economic conditions in post-war japan- a highly competitive and unstable job market. I believe that the socio-economic climate that allowed for this sub-culture to grow is somewhat analogous to the socio-economic conditions we experience in (post-Bush administration) America today. Mecha is a sci-fi genere of robots and mechanical objects, its pretty common in anime/magna, Gundam is a popular example. It has a strong conceptual/ aesthetic link with otaku culture (/m/ on 4chan is a mecha forum). I downloaded various mecha 3d models from the internet and designed my own shaders for them, in an attempt to engage with this ‘collective aesthetic’. I like the idea of these robots, not only in the escapist/hobbyist sense, but also as a representation of power in a meek culture.”
Havas’ latest project is called “Abject Aesthetics”. It is a Pinterest board she curates focusing on several different “fandoms” each adoring a different type of tragedy. She finds the images manually by combing specific hashtags across various social media. This work presents an undeniable link between contemporary fashion and the idolization of suffering.
“I was interested in exploring the nuances of Pinterest as a curatorial platform, and how social networks as a context contribute to the overall meaning of the work (blah blah blah Lol). Some of the fandoms, particularly the eating disorder and self harm ones predate pinterest and tumblr (I was aware of them as a tween online in the late 90s). It’s actually such an integral part of tumblr culture now that there are links to eating disorder/self-harm/mental illness/ suicide prevention resources in the website’s static footer. Tumblr has even taken the initiative to ban hastags related to those fandoms. There are some newer fandoms, #columbiners, for example, that fetishize the plight of the columbine killers. There are fandoms for virtually every school shooting (or really any serious crime perpetrated by a teen) that has happened between now and the late 20th century. The irony is that the more traditionally attractive the school shooter, the bigger the fandom is going to be, despite the fact that the ‘social stigma/ bullying victimization’ aspects are one of the main elements being romanticized. Columbiners are so prevalent, not only because of the degree of the tragedy, but also because of the effect that mediation has on the images- news footage from the period now feels dated/retro, the killers themselves appear, on the surface level, as vintage 90s teen idols.”
As vehemently as she may feign nonchalance, Deanna Havas is keeping an eye out for all of us. Through deceptively generous works she exposes the weird beauty of culture coming together on the internet. As she recently tweeted:
-MATTE Magazine for CCNY
photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
1992 Washington, DC
Lauren Poor is making her entire life into a garbagey Gesamtkunstwerk by exhaustively applying her vision to her surroundings. She lives a mystical neon dream where life and art intermix fluidly. Through obsessive appreciation of imperfection and oddity Poor is able to grow her vision organically and allow it to spread like moss over any given subject. Increasingly she works in a way that prevents the viewer from being able to tell where the photograph begins or ends. A studied confusion of foreground and background allows her art to bleed past its borders and into its surroundings. There is a fantastical quality to these works, like windows on a world where you would rather be.
Trash Palace 2013
Poor’s recent series “Trash Palace” takes this mixing of real (photographic) information with fantasy (painted) content to the next level. The series is comprised of photos of the artist’s apartment accompanied by small houselike constructions and still lives. The physical subject of each photograph has been heavily altered by the artist’s hand if not completely fabricated by her hand. Then the photograph is printed, and the print is worked back into by the same hand. Through these repeated interventions of self Poor’s hand combines with the photograph, and they seamlessly become unintelligible.
“I wanted to use my apartment as a test space for experimenting with ideas of visual culture,” said Poor in a recent conversation with MATTE. “I paid attention to why everything in my apartment looks the way it does and how it all might affect my lifestyle and mentality. Everything started off white and boxy as apartments usually do and after studying ways different cultures create their visual worlds and how their choices relate to and affect their beliefs and lifestyles I decided to try to create my own and see what would happen. I began to create my own wallpaper and images that I thought would better reflect my own values and world I want to live in. Some of the images show my value for objects like plastic bottles that American society deems disposable and worthless compared to the values it shows through it’s own images and advertisements. I wanted to make a non oppressive space that people would feel free in and open to possibilities of existing and creating, so I left out ideal human forms and opted for abstract doodles and a wide range of colors. When I felt I’d changed the space enough that it fulfilled some of what I hoped to represent I photographed it and emphasized some of it’s qualities by painting on the prints, then experienced living in it.”
The cohesiveness of Poor’s aesthetic is the only constant in her work, and it is malleable enough to allow for wild experimentation. “I think I have a way of doing things as anyone does. The way I imagine and create is affected by things I’ve seen and experienced and held dear or significant in my life so far. This includes a lot of ideas and visions related to dressing up and playing make believe as a kid, building fairy houses, hopping through suburban backyards, being in an acting group when I was younger and performing Shakespeare plays, being in an organization called City At Peace and many other things.”
Times Square 2013
Poor’s most recent endeavor is applying her magical world to all our lives. Choosing Times Square as her subject, she takes the hyperreal crossroads of the universe one step further. “I’m able to photograph using a machine what I’m seeing and then paint using my body what is in my mind, invisible to everyone else,” Poor writes. The logical progression of this thought takes her vision into the physical world, and that’s exactly what she’s doing. Drawing inspiration from large public initiatives such as Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg project in Detroit and Isaiah Zagar’s Philadelphia mosaic works, Poor is building a city. With help from her father and a few friends she is in the very early stages of building a “visionary environment” in her parents’ back yard in Maryland. Over spring break from School of Visual Arts this year Poor began work on this small house, and this is a direction she has been dreaming of for a long time.
The Chicken Coop 2013
“I’m excited to continue building. During this time I was happy to work to create something large and functional and I kept dreaming of building cities and empires and communities and neighborhoods someday. I hope my future will look more like this- building and fueling communities, creating spaces for good.”
Lauren Poor’s generous and unique sprit shines through everything she touches, and for this reason she will surely succeed in making the world a more beautiful place.
-MATTE Magazine for CCNY
photos by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
Raphael Cohen (1989 New York, NY) Studio Visit
I’m in a dusty white Brooklyn basement and I hear the DVD menu of “The OC” repeating quietly from one of two identical white MacBooks. Innumerable handmade powdery pale frames lean against the wall, all pristinely handcrafted to be supernaturally empty. There is a drafting table littered with small prints of cell phone photos, and there are shelves lined with stuff from anybody’s daily life- bottles, memorabilia, bits of garbage, paint cans. The photos and the stuff are weirdly the same. They are banal, but somehow, in a really sly way, made very beautiful by a shared language of indefinable lightness. This is the studio of Raphael Cohen, he is making small still-lives composed around photographs, and these still-lives dissolve boundaries between art and life.
MATTE Magazine: Describe your interest in what happens outside the area of the image- why are you trying to make still lives outside the frame and using the frame?
Raphael Cohen: The frame really is just a maitre d’ to the photograph. I like to think of the frame as a transitional object between the history of photography and traditional art display and the more experimental one that I’m interested in exploring. While these frames also act as a “structure” or unifying aesthetic element for the series, their significance to me as ambassadors of absence (their “whiteness”) should be considered as a formal material investigation and is specific to only some of the works. The photograph itself is what bounds the image and provokes my desire to expand onto and outside of the frame. The photograph is defined by its edges. By creating a rupture between the horizon established in the image and the one occupied by the viewer, the photograph is acknowledged as a representation of a moment or world. My approach to still life is an attempt to subvert that conception by exploring both the area inside and outside the borders of the photograph, all within the same breath. Thinking of Still and Life as “multi-words” (words with several malleable and far-reaching definitions) helps me to expand what a still life could be. By breaking the border of the photograph with objects placed outside inside and around the frame I am able to expand the viewers area of perception by actually creating multiple horizons. So that the image is no longer being constrained by the borders of the photograph but instead is creeping onto the matboard or the wall. My dream is to be able to expand this viewing space out into the hall, the door, the building, etc. so that the art also becomes about looking, not just what you’re looking at.
Ultimately I want the photograph to act as a player in a larger image whose edges are blurred, non-descript.
MATTE: How do you choose subject matter? Would you even call it that?
RC: Subject matter is indistinguishable from life matter. It is all matter of fact.
MATTE: What is the role of photography in your work?
RC: I like the photograph for two main reasons, each that trickles down into more specific conceptual devices depending on the piece. The first is that photography blatantly introduces a new horizon line to the viewing space, giving the viewer a distinct border between the fantasy of the image and the reality of the space they are standing in. The desire to affect this presumed understanding is the starting point for expanding the piece outside of the frame.
The second is that photography is the most candid way to document. I like the idea that everyone takes photographs and I feel like my photographs are the strongest when they aren’t staged, but instead are capturing my immediate experiences. The photograph becomes a stepping stone between the street and the studio. This second idea is very important and in fact crucial to collapsing my worlds into one. I exclusively use my phone (its an Iphone 5) to take pictures because it is the most immediate camera, I am always carrying it. I will admit that my motivation is not driven entirely by convenience and often I find myself purposely denying more advanced cameras because I like the quality of photograph that I receive from the phone, both the way it captures light but perhaps more importantly the way it creates such a signature image. It is obvious that I’ve used my phone and this conceptually ties back to the ideas that 1. anyone and everyone utilizes photography to document and 2. subject matter is life matter and there is no way (and no reason) to create hierarchal distinguishings.
photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY
1990 Minneapolis, MN
Bridget Collins feels for you. Her photographs are earnest, generous, and easy to relate to. Above all they are empathetic. Delicately observed notes on the nature of beauty, human relationships and the physical world these pictures hint at the humanity of their author and let you know she understands.
“I feel like all of my work is empathetic, its about connection,” Collins recently told MATTE. “My process is all about giving small things due attention, being present and trying to connect myself with my environment. The photos themselves show lots of contact between disparate things touching or holding each other. I like the middle ground, seeing things from both sides. I think this is apparent even in my choice of palette, my colors aren’t very vibrant, everything sort of blurs into a greenish-grey, lost in a fog of missed connections and deja vu.”
Collins’ latest project, a self-published zine entitled “Excerpts From A Palm Reading” (available here), mines incidental snapshots she has taken in the last year. These photos are combined with edited down text from the 2013 Yahoo.com Gemini Horoscope, creating a collection of extractions from Collins’ past with advice for her future interspersed. The ambiguity of Collins’ eye makes these very personal snapshots universally relatable, creating a sequence of somehow familiar moments to which the viewer can bring personal history and make connections. As Collins puts it, “I like clichés, I like pop songs ya know?”
Bridget Collins cover for Packet Biweekly issue 2/17/2013
Bridget Collins “Soho Forestry Guide” for Packet Biweekly issue 01/21/13, photo courtesy Chris Nosenzo
Bridget Collins cover for Packet Biweekly issue 2/17/2013
Collins is also a regular contributor to the new journal “Packet Biweekly”, a collated and stapled publication founded late in 2012 by artist and graphic designer for Bloomberg Business Week Chris Nosenzo, who is her friend and fellow alumni of Pratt Institute. “Along with many other of our friends at Pratt, Bridget’s work helped define what kind of content Packet should have, as opposed to Packet having a distinct vision that this kind of work just happened to fit into. In other words I saw what Bridget and our friends were creating and felt like it needed a form; so Packet was born for the work that we create,” says Nosenzo. Collins uses Packet as a platform for experimentation, taking advantage of the relatively low overhead afforded by its zine format. “Packet is literally a packet of ideas. It’s cheap and disposable and comes out every two weeks. It’s an awesome thing to work on, filled with tangents, half-finished projects, and late-night bursts of inspiration,” comments Collins.
Through Collins’ eyes the audience is privy to a world of subtlety and wonder. Moments of transcendence are presented as a trail of breadcrumbs left behind as Collins moves through life. These are small offerings, solutions to the daily preoccupations of human existence. In this way they are very hopeful. “When I was young, I was very much an escapist,” says Collins. “I didn’t think anything beautiful existed in real life, only in movies and television. My work now is sort of a protest against that, a way of trying to remain present and come to terms with my surroundings.”
-MATTE Magazine for CCNY