Monday, November 03, 2008

Stan Douglas, Abbott and Cordova, 7 August 1971, 2008

Stan Douglas, Hastings Park, 16 July 1955, 2008

Two new Vancouver-themed photographs, usefully compared with each other. Abbott and Cordova's overt digital manipulation (punched-up lighting; the three figures forming the triangle in the center of the picture that are literally cut-and-pasted into the intersection's deep space) is an aesthetic error, an unneccessary attempt to undercut the naturalism of the figures' gestures and poses by foregrounding them as "elements in a composition." This is a "strategy" that the Metro Pictures crowd tried out in the 1980s, and one that Gregory Crewdson -- the worst living artist-photographer I know -- has built a whole career around. But pictorial representation itself provides plenty of tools to undercut the artifice of representational illusion. Theatrical lighting gels, digital "seams", "the representation of representation," etc. just get in the way. And Douglas knows this. Just look at the man with the shades at the upper left hand corner of Hastings Park. He's a spectator, just one of the crowd, but he's not following the horses, he's watching us watch the photograph. The medium is studying us, like the planet in Lem's Solaris.

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