by Beauchamp Art
“In Absentia” – Benjamin S. Beauchamp
07.08.13 to 14.08.13
Location: Stew Gallery, Norwich
Organised by the ‘Making Space‘ collective
For the ‘Collections’ exhibition at the Stew Gallery in Norwich, I decided to show the four images from the ‘In Absentia’ series that I had printed and displayed for the ‘Callous’ exhibition at the Red Light Gallery in June 2013.
However, for this show I chose to mount the photographs on white board, with a 5mm boarder, resting on two nails and supported by blue tack, giving the images a more resolved aesthetic (more marketable) creating a distinction between the work and the wall by the subtle embossing, so it did not become lost in its surface like wallpaper. By mounting the images thus, they were pressed flat on the mounting board (rather than warping, as happen when tacked directly to the wall in ‘Callous’) enabling the glossy paper’s reflective quality to add a further dimension to the pictures that I had previously overlooked as a potential means of expanding the pieces and thus dismissed.
This glossy effect of the satin paper the images were printed onto meant that one could see a vague, hazy mirror image of oneself on the surface, especially in the darker areas of the picture. This not only extends the work by including the viewer more directly, but the glare is reminiscent of the reflection seen on a computer monitor screen (unless one has a non-matt, anti-reflective screen, but even then there is usually some form of ambient impression of the reflected form). This mimics how the images would be seen in digital format on electronic display, as well as bridging the gap between the subject and the media; what is shown and who it is show; images of (the area surrounding and illuminated by) a computer as prints that suggest a similar visual quality of the black mirror of the dead monitor.
It could be suggested that these photos, and the others like them [such as the ‘Interact Interfere’ series] would be better displayed on a computer screen, as a slideshow or as single images in the gallery space; not only as they would they emit light, harking back to the source material, but because the printing of the photos only gives the pictures an unnecessary physicality, that may not be best suited for the pictures of the products of the digital age. A computer display may even add an electro-ethereal element to the pieces, removing their body, exposing the cyber-spirit within, taking the images further.
There was a limited attendance to the private view though those who cam seemed positive and supportive. However when I was asked how my work first in with the other pieces (a mixture toy-based pieces, abstract/floral illustration, modified cheap tradition painting images, textile-based sculptures, mixed-media prints, and so forth) the connection to my own work appears limited; besides knowing the majority of the other exhibiting artists. Though not directly thematically relevant, the photos do form a quartet that is selected from a larger collection of images. However, the thematic connection is less apparent, but not totally absent.
In the images, my glasses and forelimbs are being illuminated by a computer screen, which displayed a vast catalogue of online pornographic materials.
“The most fundamental result of the universal presence of screens is undoubtedly the gradual replacement of a person’s direct personal experience and direct interaction but observation through glass and camera lenses, usually someone else’s, and by mediated interaction.” [Dijk, 1991: 181]
The photos and videos that form part of a database that amalgamates a wide range of explicit materials from various (professional and amateur) sources which have been meticulously categorised, divided, sub-divided, and cross-referenced by the website operators, moderators, and users to form the library of sexual imagery that is the common porn website. Designed with the user in mind, whom can ‘Like/Dislike’, ‘Favourite’, and ‘Share’ content (though why one would wish to exchange one’s preferred pornographic material with one’s associates seems somewhat bizarre. On the Internet there is a community for everyone.) In doing so, the user can build up their own, personal, archive collection of materials, freely and unsolicited (depending on the government’s preference of the individual’s nation; complying with legal and statutory obligations). Such websites allow users – members of the public with online capabilities – to expand their pornographic collection, to be used liberally. Dehumanized sexual encounters for private consumption by the public. The figures that feature may cease to be seen as people, but become electronic stimuli, innumerable in quantity, stored digitally, not decaying rapidly like the video cassettes, film reels, or magazines that came before them.
A collection transforms a series of individual components into being a whole.
Each piece in the exhibition becomes part of a single unified body of art. The like of clear connection between some of them forces the viewer to find harmonies in the discordant ensemble, like looking through someone else’s apparently chaotic collection titbits that may seem perfectly ordered to their owner. Thus, we stew together.
Given the turnout at the Wednesday night private view opening evening event, the organiser of gallery, who was in attendance – gracefully excepting complimentary win, as we all were, as per the tradition of the psedo-social arts events – the exhibit was extend to be a full week long, running from 07.08.13 to 14.08.13, rather than concluding on Saturday 10.08.13, allowing more time for people to hopefully come and see the show.
The overall success of the exhibit may have been relatively limited, the audience size at the private view [the usual means of measurement], it is still good to have had another opportunity to display my work outside of the university (out of term time, out of the buildings – out of the frying pan, into the Stew) at an established local gallery which has featured a number of good student shows, which ours was on par with (even if the audience was smaller). It is a sensible and necessary part of an artist’s practice to have one’s work seen.
[Jan A G M van Dijk, 1991. Network Society, Social Aspects of the New Media. 1999 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.]