Sunday, November 1, 2009

plus ca change

Ella minutia series # 1, 2009 (ambrotype, 19 x 24 cm) Bart Dorsa

On show at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMoMA?) is an exhibition of some strangely beautiful photographs by Bart Dorsa called Deep Inside My Dollhouse...more interesting because they are not perfect. Dorsa uses wet plates, homemade, chancy. Funny, the early days of photography had artists being able to leave realist art behind because the camera captured it so wonderfully - with a struggle, in those days. That struggle became interesting in itself. Now we have effortless digital photography for all there has been a growing move to explore inexact or imperfect processes (old and new) of capturing images photographically - we can say mechanically - an interest of mine of course. I can think of many over the last 10 years at least - light sensitive emulsion on eggs, bricks, fabric etc. Catherine Yass, Walead Beshty, and Pinky Bass spring to mind.

Rather like the way that Chris Markham's film La Jetee (made in black and white on a shoestring) captures some exciting drama to me as an artist (in a way that the Twelve Monkeys, however interesting an extrapolation, did not), so these primitive-feeling photographs do something that large scale perfection does not.

Its not necessarily the content of many of the Deep Inside My Dollhouse images - that seems a little cliched in fact. The mysterious girl child of dark fantasy... um. But the visual presentation makes that unimportant - or part of it, or something. The story line of the Cabinet of Dr Caligari or Eraserhead isn't really the point, in a similar way. In fact they are two of the most fascinatingly boring films I have watched...closely followed by Zabriskie Point (but that was just boring, seen for the first time in the early 21st century). But they stick in my mind, they thrill me with their suggested potential, the thinking behind their artistic circumstances. Their simplicity, their home-made-ness, their willingness to play around with some imperfections and capture an idea. Pinky Bass's camera hidden in a bible at mountain ceremonies does the same thing. We see the hidden-ness, the distance.

Julia Marionette # 3, 2009, (ferrotype, 19 x 24 cm) Bart Dorsa

The Minutia series on the other hand (top image) has no cliche in sight. It seems to have the most impact with its small image of a woman against a large black background. The image becomes archetypal, like an Indian temple sculpture, an Aztec drawing, a company logo...without surroundings to identify the era, the naked woman could be from any time in history. The black flattens. The fingerprints round the edges add to the idea of the image being seen, handled, an object of some intensity and accessibility. Interesting little gems.