1:1 (25 minutes) Reciprocity: The Large Camera and the Studio Wall

a photograph showing the studio wall

I’m currently working on a lecture-performance as Lynda Gammon and I develop our work in 562 together. The work of photo-video assemblage and lecture-performance builds on the generative research we’ve been engaged in over the past five years at 562 Fisgard.

Over the past month Lynda and I staged a series of three events called 1:1 (25 minutes). These events took place in our studio at 562 Fisgard Street and were organized around questions and thoughts that arose during our practice. The studio space is located in a building designed by architect John Teague who was hired by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association in 1885. The CCBA began renting the space to artists in Victoria as part of the re-development of Chinatown in the 1980s. Both of us were drawn to examine the studio and the recent and distant traces of those who inhabited it.

For these events people were invited to engage with our investigatory process within the studio site itself, the origin, and the repository of the archive: A large-format 16×20″ camera we constructed, 16×20″negatives and contact photographs, 4×5″ glass plate (dry plate) negatives, a two-volume artist book, a series of 4×5″ meditation prints, a rubbing of the wall, the flakes from the wall…

We invited three specific communities to join us in conversation to collectively experience the studio, the growing archive and the camera, at which time we peeled back a layer of the wall and exposed a 16×20″ negative.

photo showing Studio event and wall peeling

October 17, 2015  Reciprocity: the large camera and the studio wall looked at the relationship between analogue photography and the real. October 23, 2015  The Long Exposure: Duration, Meditation and the Un-archivable, brought a group of people to the studio to meditate together while exposing a 16×20″ negative of the studio wall. November 1, 2015 The Artist Studio: Disappearances and Reappearances looked at the lives of artist studios.

photograph showing James Rowe meditating on wall with group in studio

Here are some notes that emerged from our events:

October 17 2015 noon – 3 pm

Reciprocity: the large camera and the studio wall

Lynda and I invited the first group into our studio, people we knew were interested in the technique of photography. We looked at the relationship between our 16×20″ camera and the wall. Our growing pile of 16×20″ photographs was tacked to the wall. The group discussed the physics of lenses, the magic of lifting up a darkcloth behind the camera, and gesture of going underneath to view the ground glass at the back of the camera in darkness. The size of the camera and the darkcloth enables one or two people to view the ground glass at once. What is it about the surprise of looking through the world, upside down and backwards? More than one person talked about how it was ‘realer than real’. It’s something I’ve found reported by people inside the Portable Camera Obscura as well.

photo showing artist Lynda Gammon and camera wtih group

The camera was pointed at a 16×20″ section of the wall, white paint and a gestural drawing that Lynda and I found some time back. The gesture was one made by Lynda from around 1986, one with a nail hole in the middle, that she had attached sculptural forms to. It was archived all this time, covered by  a piece of doorskin that Lynda had attached to the wall years ago, until we pulled it off.

photo showing large format 16x20 camera and group at studio event

Almost right away at noon, we began peeling the paint off of the wall, and, for the viewer behind the camera  the flakes of paint, newspaper from the early 1900s, brown paper, wall paper,  rose upwards, instead of dropping down to the ground. The analogue camera shows the world upside down and backwards, an uncanny destruction. We peeled back through the wall unearthing gestures and traces left by people who had been here before us, artists, people who were helped by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association who dwelled within the space. People have suggested that they were temporary living quarters.


On Furtive Archives:

1:1 (25 minutes) Reciprocity: The Large Camera and the Studio Wall, refuses a singular history, instead it is generated from rumours, imagined pasts, some forms of truth, what can’t be said. It is flakes of newsprint that are only partial, cut off by the way that paper and paint flake. One might go to archives to ask, what has been said, but how does one entertain the question of what hasn’t been said and what should possibly remain unsaid? Reading this furtive archive might look like this:

dull rose-coloured wall paper with small white vertical pattern

butcher paper backing the wall paper

dark brown enamel paint 3″ x 8 foot pine board waist high

tongue and groove,

mustard coloured paint perhaps darkened over time.

pencil names, tentatively written, tested out by someone trying out the English language

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