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Sometimes what you’re making struggles with you.

Posted on: February 26, 2016 by Curator | No Comments

The materials you’ve assembled resist the story you’re trying to tell with them, and no amount of rearrangement seems to satisfy them: it’s just Not Right. Something is off.


“Understanding,” a words on torn paper image from January 4 was one of those. My original concept, which involved photographing the sign in the living from outside of the house, through the window glass, didn’t work at all. When I started setting up at 10:00PM, the sign was pristine and whole, with a nice white border. As the night wore on, and the shoot just wasn’t coming together, I started making changes to the sign, with fire, then water, then whatever else I had at hand, including bits of string, blood, olive oil, and lube.


By 2:00AM, I was exhausted. Even a little spooked, working alone in the darkened hallway with this now undead-looking thing I’d created over the course of the evening. Shadows flitted half-seen in the corners of my tired eyes, and I kept getting chills, like I was being watched. I was genuinely unnerved. But it felt like that was where the image needed to go, so I chalked it up to being weary, and pressed on.


There’s a point during any activity that requires focus, art included, where you reach a certain state – some call it “flow,” or “the zone” – and a little before 3:00AM, everything came together. I decided that I’d gone as far as I could, and it was a relief to turn the comforting house lights back on – the whole scene had become downright eerie. Under the incandescents, and out of the shadows, the sign was once again something I’d built, rather than a creature I’d created.


The next day, I chose the final image from among the eighty or so I’d taken. While scrolling through the last thirty photos, I noticed that many of them, taken only seconds apart and from the same tripod position, formed a kind of stop-motion animation. These were the last photos I took, during that period of the night when things got strange, when I had to shake off the creeping sense of being “watched” while I worked. As I scrolled through the images on my laptop, that creeping sense returned.


The sign was moving. Almost breathing.


I know that it’s just the paper curling with damp, after I spritzed one side of it with water and then the other, or smeared various things on it. But while I was bustling around the sign, adding things to it, changing it, and then walking back to the tripod to take the shot…it was doing its own thing, too slowly for me to notice, there in the shadows.


Sometimes what you’re making struggles with you…




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