Apophenia in Practice: Probing the Indefinite
As a medium, the pliability of photography is infinite, as is its ability to pervert reality. At this moment in time, however, this should be a given, not a debate. To document or to desecrate: if this is still a primary question in anyone’s mind, the answer is the theoretical equivalent of blowing wind. Forget subjectivity. Forget objectivity. What about subject as object? Even more alarming to the literalist, what of objecthood intentionally rendered indefinite in the realm of the photographic? The legacy of postmodernism does allow for delightful, high planes of ambiguity.
Consider, for example, the following works by emerging artists Colby Bird, Christoph Draeger, Keith Holbrook, Vishal Jugdeo and Chris Larson. While all the works in this compilation are obviously rooted in the photographic, each artist employs a strategic, procedural approach to imagemaking. This ranges from subtle gestural mirroring to the literal use of the repositional power of collage, prompting a reading akin to what Klaus Conrad called apophenia, the experience of “abnormal meaningfulness.”
Each of these works is rescued from stasis by referential intricacies that reveal not the pretense of reality, but rather, reality as prefabricated pretense. And whether juxtaposition occurs in the framing of the image or in the physical act of assemblage, each of these images is, arguably, a collage. The collage is a direct ancestor of the unwieldy compendium we currently call new media practice. They share many of the same authorial conundrums caused by appropriation, mediation, sampling and staging. Sound byte or scalpel? Video or masking tape? Perhaps a splice is just a splice.
Chris Larson, Shotgun House (Milan), 2007; C-print mounted on board and shot by shotgun; 37 2/5 x 27 4/7 inches; courtesy Magnus Muller Gallery, Berlin
Christoph Draeger, Apocalypse Places: Challenger, 2006; archival inkjet on jigsaw puzzle (2000 pieces); 37 4/5 x 26 3/4 inches; courtesy Magnus Muller Gallery, Berlin
Colby Bird, Git R Done (the year 2000, all 12 issues), 2006; C-print; 8 x 10 inches; courtesy the artist and CRG Gallery, New York
Keith Holbrook, Untitled, 2006; collage; 8 1/2 x 11 inches; courtesy the artist and David Patton Los Angeles