Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mark Dudiak and Cedric Bomford: My Home Away From Time

Neutral Ground
August 26-October 6, 2006

In experimental work the end result can sometimes be oblique or impermeable, but this is not so in the case of My Home Away From Time. The work is familiar, bearing a marked resemblance to a travel slide show.

In the project space at Neutral Ground, there sit two projectors throwing images onto two Da-Lite collapsible screens. The cables feeding these projectors with data from a pair of DVD players are strewn about the floor, as are the DVD players themselves, as well as their accompanying speakers. The images from the projectors are actually paired videos of slideshows, and the switching of one slide for another is accentuated by the mechanical noise generated by the recorded slide carousel.

The images on the virtual slides are almost perfect in their banality. There is little that sticks out in these images, as they fit seamlessly into the artists’ “summer vacation” aesthetic. The only component of this installation which does not fit in with this aesthetic, in fact--apart from the nature of the gallery itself--is the inclusion of digital media, although one may argue that this represents the spectrum of tourists’ records of their destinations. Each image lasts from about five to ten seconds.

This work was produced, we are told by the statement on the door to the space, by Mark Dudiak and Cedric Bomford while one of them was in Europe and the other at home in Canada. They would take photographs and send them to each other to be developed, without having seen their own photos. They would then “respond” to the delivered photos with yet more photos, sending those off again, and repeating the process. The resultant photographic conversation takes the form of the twin slideshows in the installation.

Mark Dudiak and Cedric Bomford My Home Away From Time, 2006 installation view. Image courtesy Mark Dudiak and Cedric Bomford

In the gallery Director’s statement it is said that Mark Dudiak “directly challenges the aspirations of the new relational aesthetics...” But with this work which acts as a record of a visual but nonetheless private conversation, relational aesthetics are perhaps not so much challenged as entirely counteracted. As such, if the work posits anything at all with regard to relational aesthetics, it suggests a longed-for middle-ground between the pretense of a viewer- or service-based world and the world of the travel slide show in which the viewer endures boredom for the sake of the photographer.

If the uncertainty principle of quantum physics can be said to apply to travel photography--and I see no reason why it can’t--then Dudiak and Bomford’s collaboration may raise the question of the degree to which the photographer is influencing or editing the photograph with his simple inclusion in the process, or vice-versa. A genuinely artistic photographic voice may be as impossible to acheive as an authentically documentary one. But this work doesn’t seem to critique, challenge or dispute that as much as it resigns itself to it. With all of the emphasis placed on process, the visual subject matter itself and the privacy of the conversation in the installation, it seems that what is truly being tested on or experimented with here is viewership and the nature of the travel slide show; the work asks, “without the social obligation to please the host, how long will people stay?”

--Lee Henderson

Exhibition page at Neutral Ground


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