In the first decade of its existence, the photographic image was understood not as “captured” or “taken” but rather as something “received from the world.” A certain anxiety was detectable in the writings of the new technology’s practitioners, who confessed their inability to fully control or “fix” the medium, both chemically and psychically. As theorist Kaja Silverman suggests in a new study that radically rethinks the history of photography, it was as though the photograph itself had its own intentionality, through which the world might conspire to assert its presence.
Wayward presents the work of nine contemporary artists—based in Toronto, St. Catharines, Yellowknife, Los Angeles, and Vancouver—who trouble our presumptions about “fixedness” of the photograph. Dana Claxton and Ed Spence unsettle the surface of the image through pixelation, but through analogue (rather than digital) processes. Laurie Kang, in a series of repeated exercises, exposes and tears light-sensitive paper to create collaged photograms that respond willfully to their environment. Jason Gowans uses infrared film to manifest a “drift” in both time and collective memory, while Brody Albert, in a three-channel video, offers a fugitive, almost imperceptible meditation on the very basis of photo-graphé or “drawing with light.”
Several artists extend the photographic to its farthest reaches: an entire room is transformed into a pinhole camera—and thus a projection of the tourist imaginary—in the case of Colin Smith; patterns mimicking those found the natural world are digitally printed on billboard paper and silk crepe de chine, then run up walls and unfurled across the floor in the work of Alexis Dirks. These works remind us of the photograph’s fundamental unruliness, and consider the way the medium’s “unstoppable development,” to borrow Silverman’s term, might well be the world’s primary way of revealing itself to us.