Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Fine Arts University of Windsor, Ontario by Meghan Krauss
Publisher: Meghan Krauss COPYRIGHT © Meghan Krauss ALL RIGHT RESERVED. No part of this publication may by reproduced or used in any form or by any means— graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, taping, Web distribution, information networks, or information storage and retrieval systems—without prior written permission of the publisher. Book, text, cover design, and all photographs by Meghan Krauss Printed in Canada
Meghan Krauss, 1,860 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
autotopia “We knew these cars and knew what they meant; and what they meant, over and above everything, was freedom.” Dave Hickey (emphasis original)1 In autotopia2, the overcrowded roadways act as metaphors for the psyche of the modern western world. Each panoramic photograph depicts a social landscape that emphasizes the freedom that is thought to come with the advantage of owning a vehicle. The chaotic movement captured within each print also addresses issues of urbanization, the complexity of city life and the endless movement of life while seated behind the steering wheel. In “Driving Towards Modernity”, Jun Zhang writes that automobiles are involved in “constantly moving across the boundaries between the public and the private, they are a terrain of power struggles and ideological negotiations”3 and therefore, “[a]utomobiles are highly public but also highly personal.”4 This intimate relationship that society has developed with the automobile and the spaces they occupy are represented through the large number of vehicles added to my photographs, as can be seen in 1,860 Seconds (Fig. 1). In Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit writes idyllically about walking as a “state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a cord.”5 She continues: The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.6 1. Dave Hickey. “The Birth of the Big, Beautiful Art Market.” Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy. By Dave Hickey. Los Angeles, CA: Art Issues P, 1997. 62. Print. 2. The use of the word autotopia as my title is being used ironically. The prefix auto- means to regard oneself, or more relevantly relating to cars or the driving of cars. The suffix -topia means a place, position, or region. [A]utotopia is a place for cars. 3. Jun Zhang. “Driving Towards Modernity: An Ethnography of Automobiles in Contemporary China.” Diss. Yale University, 2009. 5. Print. 4. Ibid, 5. 5. Rebecca Solnit. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Penguin, 2001. 5-6. Print. 6. Ibid.
Meghan Krauss, Detail of 1,860 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
Similar to Solnit’s views on traversing the landscape by foot, I compare walking to driving in autotopia, although there is a more disconnected state between the drivers’ body and the frozen movement of automobiles through the urban landscape. Roadways have a constant buzz of activity, but individuals who confine themselves in their automobiles seldom perceive the magnitude of activity that occurs around them on a daily basis. However, when confronted with heavy traffic, drivers may snap out of this “autopilot mode” long enough to notice the constant buzz and traversing chaos surrounding them. The automobile, as well as its industry, has became essential to an everyday urban life, and we can see this through an array of seemingly disparate systems that support the health of our automobiles - such as manufacturers, sales outlets, fueling stations, parts suppliers, repair depots and drive-thru oil changes, that exist seemingly everywhere. According to Ivan Illich in Energy and Equity: The typical American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it is idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly installments. He works to pay for fuel, tolls, insurance, taxes and traffic tickets. He spends four out of his 16 waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, traffic courts, and garaged; time spent watching automobile commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles; less than five miles per hour.7 Automobiles have become such a routine part of our lives that we do not often consider the privilege, the exclusionary status, and the sense of privilege regarding owning and driving automobiles. This attachment enables us to brush off the fact that, as Solnit observed, “[the] rural land and the once-inviting peripheries of towns are being swallowed up in car-commuter subdivisions.”8 Auto-mobility is now not only a system of production and consumption, it is, as Zhang notes, a project that “[comprises] humans, machines, roads and other spaces, representations, regulatory institutions and a host of related businesses and infrastructural features.”9 The entire automobile industry has been allowed to build up, spread across and divide geographical regions, and reinforce its dominant presence on urban landscapes in our contemporary society all for our own convenience. 7. Ivan Illich. Energy and Equity. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. 30-31. Print. 8. Solnit, 11. 9. Zhang, 5.
Meghan Krauss, 1,020 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
We have come to rely on our automobiles to the extent that our roadways are continually expanding in order to transport us more easily from one location to the next. In fact, Solnit states: Part of what makes roads, trails, and paths so unique as built structures is that they cannot be perceived as a whole all at once by a sedentary onlooker. They unfold in time as one travels along them, just as a story does as one listens or reads, and a hairpin turn is like a plot twist, a steep ascent a building of suspense to the view at the summit, a fork in the road, an introduction of a new storyline, arrival the end of the story.10 According to Solnit’s interpretation of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, our minds tend to work at their best when surrounded by distraction.11 So instead of isolating ourselves from these issues of the ever-expanding urban landscape, we embrace them, and immerse ourselves in among the bustle of moving roadways.12 In Isabelle Hayeur’s digitally altered large-format panoramic Destinations series, the work becomes purely visual. The photographs envelop the viewer and impart a sense of actually being within the landscape. In the publication Inhabiting the works of Isabelle Hayeur, Line Ouellet, in his essay “Constructing the World,” describes that Hayeur’s
[I]mages allude to the way humanity has been constructing the world since the time of the industrial revolution: revering and idealizing nature while at the same time destroying it. Looking closely at Hayeur’s pictures, one feels a growing malaise not unlike the discomfort caused by the sight of the ever-expanding heteroclite landscapes of suburban North America. But the artist’s aim is not to judge; on the contrary, she destabilizes us in a very poetic way.13
Similarly to Hayeur’s work, in autotopia, the audience is offered the opportunity to observe how our lives have become so intertwined with the automobile through the multitude of cars added to each photograph. As there is currently no alternative to our current situation, rather than offering a negative visual discourse, I want autotopia to raise awareness on our ever-growing dependence on roadways and vehicles that occupy them. 10. Solnit, 72. 11. Søren Kierkegaard qtd. in Solnit. 24. 12. Solnit. 24. 13. Ouellet, Line. “Constructing the World.” Inhabiting, the Works of Isabelle Hayeur = Habiter, Les Oeuvres D’Isabelle Hayeur. Ed. Serge Berard. Oakville, On.: Oakville Galleries, 2006. 7-8. Print.
Meghan Krauss, 720 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2011
In Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, Marc Augé writes that “if a place can be defined as relational, historical and concerned with identity, then a space which cannot be defined as relational, historical, and concerned with identity will be a non-place.”14 Importantly, Augé is suggesting a place is an anthropological space charged with emotion and memory, thus leaving a non-place devoid of this emotion and memory, which will ultimately result in wasteland. These non-places are highly transitional, regulated and structured, and have become the real measure of our time according to Augé. His examples include places of constant movement like hotels, leisure parks, supermarkets, retail outlets, and transport by air and rail.15 In Luc Levesque’s essay “Between Place and Non Place: Towards an Interstitial Approach to Landscape,” he describes “the notion of non-place [as] no longer an idea found at the limits of the known, but [as] something close by, a direct result of our way of life, emerging in the heart of urban sprawl.”16 This relationship between non-places and urban sprawl can be seen directly in 720 Seconds (Fig.4), as the motorway is cutting right through the cityscape. In autotopia, the roadways that I am documenting fall under Augé’s definition of non-places, and with the expansion of urban centers worldwide, roadways are continually expanding, commutes are lengthening, and the dependence on the automobile is becoming more deeply entrenched as just a fact of urban living. Although defined by Augé as a space that holds no memories, Levesque states that “‘place and non-place do not exist’ in pure form, ‘but are inscribed in a palimpsest where place is ‘never completely erased’ and non-place is ‘never totally completed.’”17 [A]utotopia challenges Auge’s notion of non-places as locations that are devoid of emotion and memory, as my layering of automobiles onto the roadways in a single image over an extended period of time reflects on my own recollective desire to extend particular moments by condensing the time that exists within a single, static photograph. In her essay “Eyes and Skin/Gaze and Touch: Productive Imagination and the Bodily Suffix,” Francine Degenais writes of how “the medium of photography, particularly in its beginnings has often been used as a witness or trace of an event, giving rise to the theory of the indexical nature of photography. [But] even before digital photography, there 14. Marc Augé. Non-places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Trans. John Howe. London: Verso, 1995. 78. Print. 15. Ibid. 16. Luc Levesque. “Between Place and Non Place: Towards an Interstitial Approach to Landscape.” Places and Non Places of Contemporary Art. Ed. Sylvette Babin. Montreal: les editions esse, 2005. 52. Print. 17. Ibid, 53.
Meghan Krauss, 840 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
were serious chinks in the armor of this theory.”18 As Allan Sekula argues in his text On The Invention of Photographic Meaning, photography uses signs to create a dialogue with the world through a system of information exchange, either within the realm of high art or mass media.19 Sekula goes on to say that in the western world, the photograph is seen as having its own language that is a universal and independent system. In Reading National Geographic, Catherine Lutz and Jane Lou Collins pursue this idea, by stating that the ideologies appropriated by people have created profound social and political anxieties and desires based on the notion of the truth of an image.20 In other words, as Rosalind Krauss’ writes in “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America,” photographs use “pervasiveness as a means of representation… in all those forms which depend on documentation…But it is not just the heightened presence of the photograph itself that is significant. Rather it is the photograph combined with the explicit terms of the index.”21 This notion explains how the viewers construct the meanings of photographic images. As Sekula goes on to state: The photograph, as it stands alone, presents merely the possibility of meaning. Only by its embeddedness in a concrete discourse situation can the photograph yield a clear semantic outcome. Any given photograph is conceivably open to appropriation by a range of ‘texts,’ each new discourse situation generating its own set of messages. (emphasis original)22 Sekula’s use of “messages” refers to the not always explicitly clear form of communication expressed through the photographic image, thus the visual information contained in photographs is subject to interpretation. In this way, even if the photographer is chronicling significant and historical events in a truthful manner, the viewer’s interpretation may supersede the photographer’s intent. In autotopia, I am creating documents of specific spaces, and by compressing multiple moments, I alter reality through the manipulation of linear time. [A]utotopia allows viewers to approach photographic documents in which the reality of specific events has been altered. 18. Francine Dagenais. “Eyes and Skin/Gaze and Touch: Productive Imagination and the Bodily Suffix.” Image & Imagination. Ed. Martha Langford. Montreal: McGillQueen’s UP, 2005. 47. Print. 19. Allan Sekula. “On the Invention of Photographic Meaning.” Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present. Ed. Vicki Goldberg. Albuquerque, NM: U of New Mexico P, 2008. 454. Print. 20. Catherine Lutz and Jane Lou Collins. Reading National Geographic. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993. 34. Print. 21. Rosalind Krauss. “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America.” October. 3. Spring (1977): 78. JSTOR. Web. 8 Aug. 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/778437> 22. Sekula, 457.23. Umberto Eco. Travels in Hyper Reality: Essays. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986. 8. Print.
Meghan Krauss, 600 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2011
Hyperreality exists where the boundaries between reality and representation have become blurred. Theorist Umberto Eco, in his Travels in Hyperreality, explains “[T]he reason for this journey into hyperreality, in search of instances where the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake; where the boundaries between game and illusion are blurred.”23 Eco’s theory involves what is referred to as a real artiface, or clever and cunning devices used to trick and deceive others. In autotopia, I am altering the original situations photographed by adding automobiles, yet I do not entirely lose the trace of the original photographs, thus creating hyperreal images. I am blurring the boundaries between reality and representation, and I am creating images that emphasize the original situation. In his essay “Traveling Through Hyperreality with Umberto Eco,” Ken Sanes states that “it seems that wherever one looks in this new landscape, one sees exaggerated variations on…fake nature, fake art, fake history, fake cities, and fake people.”24 These exaggerated variations of the hyperreal can be seen in 840 Seconds (Fig. 5) through the overabundance of automobiles added to the roadway. Additionally, I am embellishing the hyperreal by accompanying the photographic work displayed in autotopia, with 12,600 Seconds, a sound recording of the Kings Highway 401 (known by its official name as the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway and colloquially as the four-oh-one). Noises from the highway can be heard from inside the SoVA Project Gallery, which is located in the University of Windsor’s visual arts building where autotopia will be exhibited. The gallery space is adjacent to the Kings Highway 401 and the recording is played throughout the gallery space as a looping one-hour audio clip. Every ten minutes throughout the hour, the traffic noise becomes louder and louder as another recording of the sound of the traffic, recorded from the same location, is added to the original piece. Similarly to the layering that occurs in my photograph 840 Seconds (fig. 5), 12,600 Seconds amplifies the car and truck noises originally heard in the SoVA Project Gallery at any one given moment in time. This amplification of traffic noise that is already heard in the space is re-emphasizing the notion of the hyperreal. The exaggeration of traffic sounds that already exists within the space blurs the boundaries between what is real and fake, while paralleling and adding another layer to the photographic work. I am expanding this notion of the hyperreal in autotopia by capturing a moving sense of the city through the staged use of the automobile, as a comment on the chaotic nature that has developed worldwide.25 Nick Perry, in Hyperreality and Global Culture, quotes Umberto Eco as stating that “the hyperreal is that which is more real than real, 23. Umberto Eco. Travels in Hyper Reality: Essays. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986. 8. Print. 24. Ken Sanes. “Traveling Through Hyperreality With Umberto Eco.” Transparency. Web. 21. Nov. 2011. <http://www.transparencynow.com/eco.htm> 25. In August of 2010, in Beijing China, a traffic jam lasted more than ten days and stretched one hundred kilometers from the city’s outskirts all the way to Inner Mongolia.
Meghan Krauss, 540 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2011
the copy which is more perfect than the original.”26 [A]utotopia expresses this idea in the way I am adding automobiles to roadways in order to create images that contain a concentration of vehicles; many more than there would be in that location at any given time. The places I have photographed are located in the Windsor/Detroit region, where I currently reside, and Saskatchewan, which is where I am from. These locations often tend to be less busy than areas such as New York, Toronto, Mexico City, or Bangkok. This strategy allows for the automobiles added to the roadways to become metaphors for the ever-growing world population and our ever-growing dependence on the automobile. Thus, 600 Seconds (Fig. 6), for example, is creating, to borrow Sanes’ words for my own purpose, a “description that is true of virtually all fiction and culture, which gives us things that are more exciting, more beautiful, more inspiring, more terrifying, and generally more interesting than what we encounter in everyday life.”27 In the series autotopia, added vehicles and enhanced motion revise the scene within each of the ten panoramic photographs in the exhibition, altering the constructs of time and place. Technically, my panoramic photographs are seamlessly stitched images that range between seven and thirty separate photographs. Once I have established the base layer, additional photographs of automobiles that I have taken over a course of time are layered on top of the original image through the use of photomontage. For example, in 540 Seconds (Fig. 7), I merged together sixty-seven photographs taken over nine minutes in a single location. Each car depicted in the image derives from one of the sixtyseven photographs, and the title refers to the total time period required to take the photos. According to David Harris and Eric Sandweiss in their text Eadweard Muybridge and the Photographic Panorama of San Francisco, the photographic panoramic format has been in use since the mid-late eighteenth century and in the nineteenth century it was described as “a succession of illusionistic devices – the painted panorama, the diorama, the cosmorama – present[ing] the city as a visual spectacle.”28 Eadwead Muybridge, one of the commercial photographers of the late 1800s in North America, was using panoramic images to document San Francisco in ways that suited contemporary tastes. Today, Muybridge’s images provide rich historical information of the city and show the changes that occur to cityscapes over time. Similarly to photographers using the panoramic format in the 1970s, I embrace and appreciate the format for its “compatibility 26. Umberto Eco qtd. in Perry. Nick Perry. Hyperreality and Global Culture. New York: Routledge, 1998.Print. 42. 27. Sanes. 28. David Harris and Eric Sandweiss. Eadweard Muybridge and the Photographic Panorama of San Francisco, 1850-1880. Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, Distributed by MIT, Cambridge, MA, 1993. 15. Print.
Meghan Krauss, 1,260 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
with human vision, as well as the distortions that arise from the translation of 120° to 140° view onto a flat surface.”29 As Steve Edwards notes in his Photography: A Very Short Introduction, for spectators, “the panoramic effect is a sensation of being surrounded by, and thereby part of the histories of place,”30 thus my reasoning for using the panoramic format. In 1853, Swedish artist Oscar Rejlander “developed a technique of ‘combination printing’, in which a photograph was produced from multiple negatives,”31 and this technique was later referred to as photomontage. Through the use of this process, Rejlander made Two Ways of Life (1857), an image that consists of thirty separate negatives: a difficult process to master, as it consisted of the laborious process of disguising numerous joints in the darkroom. It is stated by Edwards that Two Ways of Life took a period of six weeks to complete, a much more difficult method then our current Adobe Photoshop. Controversy broke out after the invention of this new technique as until that point, photographs had been regarded as truthful depictions. But it did allow for the suggestion that the image was not a mere copy, and was the result of artistic skill, intelligence, and culture. As Edwards points out though, “many were unconvinced: the parts seemed to be lit from different directions; shadows did not coincide with the principal light source,”32 and the images did not seem to mesh together, which is a technical issue I have run into with my own photomontages. In autotopia, the panoramic effect causes a slight warp as consequence of the technique, indicating a slight inexactness. There are also subtle and deliberate hints in each photograph that allude to photomontaged distortions. I intended these discrepancies to evoke a sense of questioning as they figuratively skew the viewer’s perception and judgment of what appears to be a factual moment taken within an urban landscape. In 1,260 Seconds (Fig. 8), these subtleties exist in the main intersection where there are automobiles veering into other cars, and pedestrians can be seen walking inbetween the chaos, creating a sense of unease. In 1,260 Seconds (Fig. 8), as it is not immediately obvious that I have composed the scenes of numerous distinct moments, it is through these hyperreal subtleties, that one of the photographs will act as a trigger for the viewers. I want the viewer to realize the scenes are, in fact, constructed. 29. Ibid. 30. Steve Edwards. Photography: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 296-7. Print. 31. Ibid, 43-4. 32. Ibid, 44.
Meghan Krauss, Detail of 1,260 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
The motion blur in the images is used intentionally. The surrounding urban environment remains rich and detailed. The manipulations made to the photographs are constructed in a precise and mechanical manner. My photographic process in accumulating this body of work is based on an exploratory process that parallels the visual experience of watching the blur of the automobiles as they motor down the highway. As I take the photographs that are ultimately stitched together in the final image, I am on the lookout for distinctly coloured or oddly shaped automobiles. Often my camera will be pointed in one direction, and I will see something of interest in the opposite direction so I must quickly pan in an attempt to capture it. As I am fabricating the busyness of roadways in many of my images, some locations are occupied very infrequently by automobiles so I sit, ready and waiting, for the space to become occupied or for movement to occur. Often I wait in vain, but in instances that I am able to capture action in the specific location, I am filled with a deep sense of gratification. When I choose specific locations to photograph, I always have control over where I will set up my tripod, but I have little control over the vantage point. Therefore, in order to fill the camera frame in a manner that emphasizes the maximum number of automobiles, I must strategically use the constructed elevations that are available. These spaces range from train bridges, as was the case in 1,260 Seconds (Fig. 8), to freeway merges, parking garages to sides of pedestrian walkways and, as a woman in these locations, I often prefer to venture out with an ally. (Fig. 10) Those who accompany me on my excursions are able to observe my process of finding locations, choosing vantage points, and accumulating digitally raw photographic data. In addition, there are always a plentitude of automobile honks, arm waves, odd question from passersby, and even the odd visit from security personnel. In addition to the photographing in these locations, there is also the spontaneity that occurs when compiling the automobiles I will later layer over the base panoramic photograph. As I have little control over automobile or pedestrian activity, traffic light changes, weather issues, or security interference, the length of my stay is often unpredictable. Additionally, the way I add the layers into my photographs, although an intensive process, becomes spontaneous as well. In 1,260 Seconds (Fig. 9), subtleties, such as the army of city workers adorned in yellow safety clothing, are added to the final photograph based on the two hundred, forty-six photographs collected. Visually apparent within 2,400 Seconds (Fig. 11), is that the majority of cars are black and white, there is a man driving a go-cart down the freeway, 17
Photo Credit: Julie Sando, 2011
and three planes are visible in the sky - all of these circumstances I could not have possibly orchestrated in the usual photographic fraction of a second. In both the exploratory and post-production process contained in the collective works in autotopia, there are similarities with feminist/performance-artist, Mary Beth Edelson’s photographic work. According to Adam Weinberg’s essay, Vanishing Presence, Edelson’s photographic performances would commonly “fulfill her expectations.”33 However, he continues, “what interests her is not whether the images suit the original conception but rather the possibilities implied by the results themselves. ‘Sometimes a totally new concept would emerge…it kept the act of not yet knowing very alive in the process.’”34 Although I do forfeit some control when taking my photographs, I am able to use these uncontrollable circumstances to advantage during the editing stages. I take the images that depict these events, and compress them in a way that assists the viewers in finding indications of the illusion I am creating. The act of regaining control after letting go allows me to better internalize and understand the issues that surround people’s demand for the automobile. The photographic reconstruction of dynamic areas is my way of putting the western world back together in a way that is ironically, subtle chaos. By adding automobiles to roadways through the use of photomontage, I see my photographs as similar to Ramona Ramlochand’s White Desert series in which she digitally alters the reproduction and portrayal of fabricated places. Within the work, as Alice Ming Wai Jim writes in her essay “Ramona Ramlochand: White Desert – Optica, A Centre for Contemporary Art”, Ramlochand was specifically “interested in questioning the ways in which place – both real and imagined – is perceived, as mega-corporations join forces with new media technologies to advance the increasing digitization of the world.”35 Ramlochand’s photographic collages create new geographical locations that were at one point considered “real” experiences, but have been altered to create imagined moments. For example, the main photographic image in the gallery installation at Optica, in Montréal, depicts a region of the Sahara desert. There are equal amounts of sand to sky spread out over the two large light boxes, and in each image, objects can be found (a Montréal street lamp, a white jeep, and a lone drive-in theatre screen) disrupting the tranquility of the images. Ramlochand states that her work is a form of a, “[m]emory [as] a collection of fragmented experiences, fictionalized with traces of the truth.”36 33. Weinberg, Adam D. Vanishing Presence: Essays. New York: Rizzoli, 1989. 108. Print. 34. Ibid. 35. Alice Ming Wai Jim. “Ramona Ramlochand: White Desert - Optica, A Centre for Contemporary Art.” Image & Imagination. Ed. Martha Langford. Montreal: McGillQueen’s UP, 2005. 53. Print. 36. Ramona Ramlochand qtd. in Jim, 53.
Meghan Krauss, 2,400 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2011
Similarly to Ramlochand’s thoughts, I see the automobiles that I add onto the roadways as fragmented memory experiences. The images are taken from the same location over an extended period of time, and in doing so link them to my own memories. Although constructed, the photographs I create become “real” moments in a hyperreal time. As Eco writes on the hyperreal, “for historical information to be absorbed, it has to assume the aspect of a reincarnation. To speak of things that one wants to connote real, these things must seem real. The ‘completely real’ becomes identified with the ‘completely fake.’”37 Remembering Solnit’s observation that “memory, like the mind and time, is unimaginable without physical dimensions; to imagine it as a physical place is to make it into a landscape in which its contents are located, and what has location can be approached. That is to say, if memory is imagined as a real space… then the act of remembering is imagined as a real act.”38 When remembering moments past, one does not translate memories into actual time, rather it becomes condensed into a single, multilayered recollection. Thus, I take non-places in the forms of roadways and insert my own memories in the forms of automobiles into the photographs over a particular period of time to re-create the events that I have witnessed. I leave many subtle hints in my photographs that indicate the assembled and hyperreal nature of my photographs that can be seen in 2,400 Seconds (Fig.11), which I referenced earlier in regards to the many black and white automobiles, planes in the sky, and go-cart on the freeway. Unlike Ramlochand’s White Desert, they present a visual documentation of current events in a more momentary and believable manner. In spite of the fact that they are photomontaged into the final image from a number of different photographs, the automobiles are taken from the exact same location over an extended period of time. The photographs represent, what Susan Bright writes in her Art Photography Now in regards to the photograph as a document, “a much needed return to ‘true’ stories, spurred on by the scale of events in the ‘real’ world.”39 As all of these automobiles actually moved through the spaces indicated in the photographs, it is true that “in the very broadest sense, every photograph is a document: it stands as evidence after an event that the event did in fact occur,”40 as the Encyclopedia of Photography states. I have set aside this strict rule for myself in regards to my photographs, like Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Water Tower series. My images are far from being as rigorous in the capture stage in that the duo took their images “early in the morning, on overcast days, so as to eliminate shadow and distribute light evenly. The subject is centered and frontally framed, its parallel lines set on a plane as close to an architectural elevation as possible. 37. Eco, 8. 38. Solnit, 77. 39. Susan Bright. Art Photography Now. New York: Aperture, 2005. 159. Print. 40. “Documentary and Social Documentary Photography.” International Center of Photography Encyclopedia of Photography. New York: Crown, 1984. 150. Print.
Meghan Krauss, 1,080 Seconds, 18x48 inches, 2012
No human beings and no clouds or birds in the sky interfere with the starkness,”41 and they were renowned for their careful composition technique. Although not as austere as the Bechers’ process, by establishing these rules and being precise with the placement of the automobiles my photographs (although decidedly altered) have a sense of momentary believability. In conclusion, through this exaggerated narrative of roadways, I seek to engender in my viewers a similar angst to my own feelings about the automobile and its place in our urban and rural landscape. The viewers may be able to relate more closely their own personal experiences and feelings of being on a similarly chaotic roadway. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes states, “The photograph does not necessarily say what is no longer, but only and for certain what has been.”42 In keeping true with this statement, my mandate for my work is that every automobile in my photographs must exist in the spot it is depicted – it is all real, just (re)constructed to create a dynamic “now” rather than a static “documented now.” Thus, my images are not, in the historical sense of an accurate and true document, accurate and true, yet they are not entirely false, for each car has existed in the space that I have shown it. As Martha Langford states in Image and Imagination, “The photograph is always tethered to the external world, however remotely, however mediated the link. Photographic imagination is not limited, but sparked, by that fact.”43 Therefore, I am moving beyond simple documentation so that the photographs in autotopia metaphorically resemble and challenge the frenetic and high-speed society in which we live.
41. Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, and Thierry De. Duve. Bernd and Hilla Becher: Basic Forms. New York: Te Neues, 1999. 7. Print. 42. Roland Barthes. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill and Wang, 1981. 85. Print 43. Martha Langford, ed. Image & Imagination. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 2005. 99-100. Print.
Meghan Krauss, 1, 380 Seconds, 18x52 inches, 2012
autotopia Installation View - SoVA Project Gallery, Windsor, ON
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