April 27, 2004
Global and Local, Thinking and Acting, Variables. (Auto)


Martin Liebscher (an old and fine friend) is the artist who builds his own cameras to make the world reflect his own movement and rhythm as he rolls film through the gate. You sort of have to see them big, but here they are anyway, I think you can find Kio or me in a few of them. Point is, they change how you see the real world. You realize that the way you see the world has been trained and shaped by photographic lenses, and that there are other ways to see it. You just got to get new lenses. For example.

I bring it up because Martin's great, and his work is great, and also because I just stumbled upon Robert Spahr's work. Like Martin's work, it's about building a lens, it's just that the world is the world that is the New York Times. Which is not to say that the NYT is the world. But the latest three images from the nyt.com are as good an index as many.


Like all photography, it's about fixing in light a moment in time. Spahr's "hourly crufts" have some of the beauty that Martin's work does; they clearly represent the world you live in, but they don't look like you remember it. Or, maybe, they look more like a memory of the world than conventional photography does.

Spahr's work -- here's a good cross-section of it -- asks some of the same questions that Jason Salavon's work does. Similarly, there's Mark Tribe's NYT work, or Thomas Bayrle's. They are good questions to ask, about time and media and vision and memory. They are questions that have something to do with wondering this: where do the images go, when we've stopped looking at them?


The question can be a desperate one, think of the Collyer brothers, think of Patrice Lumumba Moore. Where do the images go when we stop looking at them? From these three artists, the answers suggest residue, distortion, mutability. They suggest Lev Manovich's Principles of New Media, specifically Variability: "As new media theorist and architect Marcos Novak notes, a computer - and computer culture in its wake - substitute every constant by a variable."

Liebscher, Spahr and Salavon (for example) all substitute the constants with variables. For Liebscher, the variable is in the object, and for Spahr and Salavon, the variable is in the subject. But these variables are not about computers. These are the variables of the rest of the world, whether New York Times or the New York City. No computer will ever be more variable than these.

Posted by kevin slavin at April 27, 2004 03:48 AM
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