Ether and Ash
Images are rarely forced to look upon themselves, to give witness to their own contingent and ephemeral lives. But an early pioneer of ‘telesnaps’; John Cura turned the lens upon its progeny, setting in motion an optical möbius strip of seeing, which resurfaces in Elizabeth Gossling’s new exhibition, Burn. Although the results of Cura’s act of photographing transmissions on his television set are now lost, his unique and innovate practice is mediated in Gossling’s work as a means to reveal the apparatus of the image in contemporary culture and our compulsive complicity in its perpetual reproduction.
The image endures as a crucial subject of artistic thought. Always fraught and difficult the image is inscribed with a spectrum of claims, counter claims and polemical argumentation. A recent generation of artists notably Viola Yesiltac (New York) and Kathrin Sonntag (Berlin) have explored different metaphysics of seeing; yielding playful and challenging takes on the mechanisms of the gaze and the visual grounding of awareness. But while many artists have focused upon the mediums of photography and film as aesthetic and critical subjects of study, few with the exception of Gossling and the video artists of the 1970’s have interrogated closely one of the key variants of the moving image familiar to us all; the television screen.
With monikers like widow-maker, curtain burner, idiot box and boob tube, the television is wrapped in an evocative vocabulary that brutally defines its physical materiality and behavioural consequence on the viewer. Yet this rich vernacular inscribed with alternate expectations of death or stupidity, fails to register the compulsive attention implicit in the viewer’s relationship with the cathode ray tube or it’s anorexic off spring, the plasma screen. It is this compulsiveness that animates John Cura’s sustained practice of photography and which Gossling’s new works capture and materialize.
Developed through an intensive 3D scanning process that literally cocoons their subject with lenses, Gossling’s new large scale prints; Cura Obscura, Head lock, Bonfire and Skin Graph pinpoint with pixel accuracy an unsettling metastasis of the image. But these ashen coloured prints are not images, rather they are like Cura’s own fascination, picture faults that irrupt as blemishes and burns during an act of technological re/production.
Haunting Gossling’s works is the critical question of what constitutes an image. It is common place to define an image as an aesthetic assemblage of cultural sensibilities and technical practices realised in a single frame, snapshot or instagram. But this definition doesn’t register the radicalised understanding of the image flowing through Gossling’s practice. In each of her prints and in the process underpinning them, a stress is placed upon the apparatus involved in their realisation. It is only in the assemblage of John Cura melting into his camera, the burned out screens of the televisions sets and in the glitchy surface of the tripods that the actual image inhabiting Gossling’s work partially appears. This singular but tantalisingly elusive image enveloping her work situates the embodied subject as an optical chamber, irrevocably caught up in a machinic assemblage. It is this connective assemblage of body, camera, tripod, 3D scanning processes and digital printing that constitutes the image.
No longer legible as pixels frozen into a ‘picture’ – a visual inscription of a specific aesthetic sensibility – the image is instead a totality of the contents of the whole machininc assemblage, the entire cloud of data and processes residing simultaneously throughout this extended technical apparatus, which incorporates the body as a perspectival machine. In this arrangement there is no exteriority, no outside surface of ‘the image’, it envelops itself. Gossling’s prints are the residual trace of an attempt to grasp the image bound within the machinic assemblage and her work bears witness to the refusal of the machinic to give up its image, to the disciplined by anthropocentric ways of seeing.
For further information please visit Tintype Gallery