AFTER SANS TERRE

sansterre01

Okay, one more post. I’m now (perhaps inevitably) making a drawing of an image I took of the final installation. It will match the style of my other ‘4×4’ drawings. As the images get made, I’ll update the image above. Each panel is 25cm x 25cm, building up to a 1 metre x 1 metre piece.

Making this drawing is a way of thinking about – through being present with – a work that no longer exists, except as memory and documentation. So far all the drawings I have made have been of works made by others and though Sans Terre / + was a collaboration between me and Chris Graham, it does feel like I’m making a drawing of my work rather than that of someone else. I am aware, when making the panels, that the detail is hard to read. For example I didn’t realise that the bottom right of panel ten (if number one is the top left and sixteen, bottom right) which appeared to be spots on a white surface was actually backlit bottles of urine. Only when assembling the piece did that become clear. Part of that is because I’ve not been certain of the orientation of some of the panels while I’ve been making them.

What does become clear is the fragmented and layered nature of the piece. That was apparent to anyone that entered the space during the last week or so, but when it’s re-presented on a confined flat surface the impression is heightened.

This has led to a reinforcing of something I found fascinating during the making of Sans Terre / +. In panel nine it’s possible to make out a cloud like structure. The original is a very pixellated image taken from a website that. I made it even more lo-res by zooming in on the image and capturing a screen image before it became more resolved in Photoshop. It’s of a drone strike victim’s abdomen which has been blown out, and it’s pretty nasty. When making the installation we had this image (and another section from the same photograph that was made unclear in just the same way), hung up in various places. I started taking photographs of things with this in the background. What’s strange is that when seen in one of these pictures it becomes an out of focus element and sets up a tension with the in-focus surface of the picture. Often, though, if seen from a distance the pixellated print out resolved and could be read. Close-up it became abstract and hard to see.

If we extrapolate this then it could be taken to mean that when you haven’t got much information, it’s much easier to see what’s going on at a distance then close up. That seems paradoxical, but it does make sense. It’s a version of objectivity. When we don’t know much about a situation, it’s easy to pass judgement, not just because there’s little or no come back (we’re not present with the thing, so not really at risk or implicated), but because it seems much clearer. When close up, the detail and caveats can overwhelm us, creating a kind of moral and physical paralysis.

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