The photographic images in this exhibition all relate to attempts to capture light, as well as the visualization and representation of time. These images are processed with two kinds of procedures that seem to be diametrically opposed to one another, one grounded in duration, the other in material.
The sculptural object in this exhibition is an astronomical clock that connects contemporary images with the course of the planets in our solar system. The frontside of the clock consists of images that are cut in four concentric circles and contain marks that turn them into functional dials from which astronomical information can be read when mounted on the mechanism.
Dial #I-III depicts two details and a test-image of the strongest digital imaging sensor for astronomical purposes that has ever been developed (1). This sensor will find its home in the yet to be built Vera C. Rubin telescope on the Cerro Pachón ridge in North-Central Chile. This ‘camera’ will capture the largest and most detailed images of deep space ever recorded.
A mechanical astronomical clock on the other hand, is a centuries old technology to represent astronomical information. You could say that it is redundant and nostalgic if you compare it to the digital imaging technology that is depicted in the dials. The legibility of the images/dials, which depict this latest technological achievement, is torn apart by a nostalgic, mechanical predecessor in order to connect them to the actual speed of the planets in our solar system. The images are connected to duration, which is a contrast to the photographs that the equipment is supposed to produce. When mounted on the clock, the four rings that make up the image/dial slowly turn around at independent speed and will only be readable in its ‘original’ state every 18,6 years, a time span that will most likely eradicate the up-to-dateness of the technology that is depicted.
The title of the exhibition is derived from the fourth dial that shows a text in light dots. It is a quote that is attributed to the 20th century Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro and has recently been used on several occasions to refer to nostalgia and melancholy in relation to contemporary western society. However, the origin of this quote is obscure. It is attributed to Huidobro, but it is not clear when or how these words appear in his work or life. The sentence seems to float around in the information atmosphere as a detached signifier that can be used for different purposes in different contexts, each time slowly releasing itself more and more from its supposed origin and author. The words of the Chilean poet are brought together with images of the technology that will be brought to Chile to observe the skies. In this context the quote itself can be interpreted to poetically represent the attempt to capture the universe in which looking up means looking back (in time), trying to find those hours that have lost their clock.
The other series of works that are shown in this exhibition demonstrate a similar detachment from authorship and origin, albeit from a very different point of view. These works depart from a simple artistic gesture, which is to reverse the relationship between image and paper. The photographic image is printed on the backboard of a frame and a layer of wax and paper on glass are placed on top. This specific treatment suspends the immediate intelligibility of the images on view. They are frozen in a moment between appearance and disappearance, between absence and presence.
However, the detachment of authorship, origin and meaning really takes place in the source material that is used for these works. As we have read from the titles, all the images that are used to make these works can be related to the idea of capturing light and/or time and in that way are reminiscent of the astronomical clock and the dials. But the images that are used in these works could hardly be more opposed to those images that the advanced technology depicted in the dials is supposed to produce. The images that are used as the source material for these so-called ‘wax-works’ are made with ‘placeholder imagery’. This kind of imagery can be found as printed material in photographic frames, printing equipment and/or calendars. They are generic images that automatically become redundant through the passage of time or are waiting to be replaced for other images that do carry meaning because specific memories tie them to a specific time and place. The images on view here are denied that kind of specificity and are used in different contexts for different purposes, similar to Huidobro’s quote, precisely because they lack any form of authorship or origin. These images silently shimmer through a thick layer of fog that turns them into a ghost of their former self, eternally stuck in a limbo that simultaneously saves them from being thrown away as well as hiding them from view.