Laura Dutton’s exhibition Quietly at the Window is a humming tableau of temporal collapse. The word “quietly” is a likeness to silence, or absence, but as an adverb it also implies action, process, and presence. This is the kind of integrated duality that is embodied in this exhibition. Every “window” here is both an exposure and a fracture of that exposure.
The source images are cropped from larger urbanscape photographs. Low resolution and pixellated, it is as though the windows themselves were pixels of a larger whole, and likely the only origins of light in the source images. This residual imprint of light was digitally reversed into a negative and printed onto acetate, and was scanned and printed again on a larger scale. As a result, the enlarged pixels – now further deformed by the dots on the scanned acetate – become represented once more by a multiplicity of ink droplets. Because the sides of the “window” frame structures are exposed, the image becomes suspended, double-sided, and thin. It becomes evident that light was bent, folded, and collapsed over a duration of time into one palpable instance. However, this instance is not static, as it is again reactivated by the emission of light, while the light is again fractured by the objecthood of the printed microcosm.
The process of re-representing the image could potentially continue forever. It is a back-and-forth game of reciprocity. Every image may still be rephotographed, rescanned, reprinted, shrunk and re-enlarged. However, the curtains are drawn, and the operation is paused, for no other reason than to signify that nothing is ever complete. The act of perception is always in progress, always a spiralling shift from moment to moment. The window becomes a stand-in metaphor for this passage. The etymology of the word “window” speaks of this very process. It comes from a compound of “wind” from Old Norse vindr and auga, “eye”1, intrinsically suggesting that visual observation is a framing of spatial transgression.
Our understanding of the function of light in this work may be enhanced through an example of James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory, circa 1873. Maxwell proposed that a light wave consists of oscillating magnetic and electric fields, perpendicular to each other and continually exchanging sides2. The two fields fluctuate in unison, as if shifting their weight so as to make room for the other, as if passing through each other, maintaining a constant balance. A ray of light acts as a trajectory of this liminality, moving ever forward through space-time. This phenomenon is not unlike the inconclusive nature of human desire, where the otherness in the desired object is virtually unattainable.
In effect, Lacanian psychoanalysis states that the imaginary identification with the “other” – the desire for something that is outside of oneself – is actually destructive for both parties. “The destruction is simply there in the form of transference”, disguised under an invented artifice of otherness (thouness)3. Because the printed window is something that would not exist without the activation of light, it is possible to regard the ink as an object of light’s desire. Of course, this also means that ink, as image, desires the light in order to be seen and confirmed as entity. Both sustain the other, as counterparts, and through their mutual annulment can be regarded as one object. The cancellation, the collapse, creates an opening for the next motion of fulfillment, which would potentially be transferred from the next object of thouness – the viewer. In this way, Quietly at the Window reveals the synthetic materiality of perception, and the continuous drone that is artificially delineated by the mechanics of desire.
~Text written by Sasha Opeiko
1. “window, n.”. OED Online. December 2012. Oxford University Press. 5 January 2013. http://www.oed.com.ezproxy.library.uvic.ca/view/Entry/229262?rskey=j0y2Rh&result=1
2. March, Robert H. Physics for Poets. McGraw-Hill: New York, 2003. 66.
3. Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III. The Psychoses. Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1988. 303.
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