Reality is always a partially cloaked thing: the some of sociopolitical structures and strictures, the warp and weft of interpersonal dynamics, and so on. It is created largely through instances of alchemy that evade the realm of the visual, in which photography traffics. Attempts to touch something of the real through photography, to extend the medium beyond its doglike loyalty to the indexical, can nevertheless be made; this is where art comes in.
In the face of the failures of representation, as Bertolt Brecht once claimed, “what we actually need is to ‘construct something,’ something ‘artificial,’ ‘posed.’ “We need, in other words, to create a form of what might be termed “constructed representation” – aligned with Brecht’s theatrical techniques of alienation, which call attention to the workings of the theatrical apparatus in order to provide the audience a space for intellectual analysis of the events onstage. This constructed representation exists in opposition to the smooth, consumable forms of representation associated with the spectacle. It is rough; it produces friction.
Consider, in this context, Lucas Blalock’s use of Photoshop. He’s horrible at it. Or so he’d have you believe: you can follow all his technical steps; they are ham-fisted. But these bald-faced moves stand in direct contradiction to the standard, seamless operations of digital legerdemain that are designed to fade into the background of the collective dream worlds fashioned for us by advertising executives and other promoters of the spurious and the seductive. The mechanisms of the digital are here laid bare, allowing us to see them for what they are: cheap tricks. But to shine light on this reality, which can be seen as a kind of critique, is not to identify what’s at the bottom of the well.
Blalock’s photographs are awkward. They trip themselves up, cross their own wires, scramble their own energies. They are not “well done.” But of course most things aren’t. We live amid a profusion of the jury-rigged and the half-baked, those thoughts and objects that are at best nice tries, tries, but never successes. Like most things pathetic, however, there is also a sweetness about Blalock’s pictures, a certain imperfect grace that exists at cross-purposes with their atmosphere of failure. They recall the writer Donald Barthelem’s memorable remark on accuracy in his fiction. “The confusing signals, the impurity of the signal,” he observed, “gives you verisimilitude. As when you attend a funeral and notice, against your will, that it’s being poorly done.” Above and beyond critique, Blalock’s photographs carve out an idiosyncratic form of photographic realism, on the that moves beyond the merely depictive and into a more direct realm of representation: the embodied.
Chris Wiley in Aperture, Issue 208, Fall 2012
This is an idealised video of the installation – each channel has been composited onto a still of the installation. Avoids screen reflections and other problems.
Seaweed, kelp, jetsam.
two screen video installation model with small LCD screens