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'drive-by shooting : april greiman digital photography'

2006

pasadena museum of california art

pasadena, california

curatormerry norris

essays by: marcus novak, michael dobry

introduction by wesley jessup

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Drive-by Shooting: April Greiman Digital Photography builds on this history through its unconventional installation and medium. Greiman has had the unique experience of working as a computer artist, graphic designer, and photographer throughout her varied and important career. Beginning in the early 1980s, at the advent of the personal computing revolution, she seized upon the new technology in its infancy and has been a leader in using its unique qualities and properties in a virtual, web-based context as well as in the concrete context of three dimensional environments and print. Greiman uses the computer and its technology to investigate ideas on different scales and in varied media from graphic design to fine art to large-scale public projects. Greiman's work places her at the center of the growing community of artists comfortable with technology and the tools that make it possible to forge new creative ground. 'Drive-by shooting' is a term that suggests danger, death, threat and fear. It refers to a tactic used by gangs to kill unsuspecting, unprepared bystanders. The fleeting quality of the attack, the killing or maiming of a victim in an instant, mirrors the transient reality of life and the always-present possibility of death, which can transpire in seconds. This term's use, however, has expanded in recent years to include any occurrence or happening that is intentional and of consequence, yet possesses the qualities of surprise and rapidity. Greiman's digital photographs operate in this realm. Her subjects, whether an opera house in Paris or a street in Doha, are a stand-in for the drive by victim and her target. Her movement as the photographer is integral to the outcome of the image. Movement and motion as captured by artists played a key role in the evolution of modern art. Artists in the late 19th century, fascinated by the newly industrialized world and engaged by engineering advances, specifically rapid transportation, explored new ways of depicting their surroundings. The way the world looked while moving quickly through it fueled their formal and stylistic experiments. The concept of movement is recurring and continues to play a role in contemporary art, although the tools used to capture and depict it have evolved. In April Greiman's photographs, the entirely unique properties of the light and line that define form and that are specific to digital media are immediately noticeable and especially riveting. For instance, a flat plane of light that would normally appear as two-dimensional appears in three dimensions and creates a translucent volumetric form. Similarly, outlines of the forms in the images also appear as columns or horizontal bars. Furthermore, when the images are printed in large scale, the shapes are pixelated and the resulting colors are vibrant and unexpected. The combination of seeing the unusual palette, seeing objects and motion in a new way, is surprising and visually intense. The result is a body of work that transforms the way we see the world around us. These images, which were taken of everyday objects, buildings, and people, resonate particularly for contemporary society, which seems to be in a state of constant motion, literally and figuratively. Drive-by Shooting slows the world down, captures it, and uncovers elements of it that are present but invisible to us. In keeping with the dynamic tenor of this work, the PMCA has worked with the artist to design the installation with the work hinged to the wall and cantilevered into space, hanging from the ceiling, and tilted against the floor. Our hope is that our space and the installation mirror the visionary aspect of the work. An exhibition of this size and scale is the result of the hard work and initiative of an incredible group of creative individuals. I would like to first thank April Greiman for sharing this outstanding body of work with our members and the wider public. We are thrilled to be the first Los Angeles institution to show her work in a solo exhibition. I would also like to thank PMCA founding Board Member Merry Norris for shepherding this project through from start to finish. She has observed April's use of technology develop over the years and had the keen foresight to propose it as an exhibition. This exhibition would not have been possible without the generosity and involvement of several in-kind contributors: Urban Partners, LLC., Nash Editions, Launchstar Marketing, Premier Imaging Products, IT. Supplies and finally, Harold Huttas at InSync Media. The PMCA staff spent hours overseeing the organization of this exhibition. Sergio Gomez, Shirlae Cheng and Emmett Clements skillfully facilitated the challenging installation. Emma Jacobson-Sive assisted with publicity and ensured the exhibition's coverage throughout the region. I am grateful to Jenkins Shannon for her meticulous oversight on the budget and finances and to Lydia Mojica Fernandez for her terrific leadership for the opening events. In conclusion, I would like to thank the PMCA Board of Directors for their vital support of our exhibition program. Wesley Jessup, Executive Director, PMCA

Introduction by Wesley Jessup,

Executive Director, PMCA

 
Artist Statement

Artist Statement

 

Artist Statement I began this project over twenty years ago with a 35mm Nikon, then a Polaroid SX-70, capturing glimpses of tree trunks and plant and leaf forms from my moving car. I think what attracted me was the tension between control and lack of control this technique encouraged in intuitively compiling a personal record of nature. I wanted to bring natural form into my camera almost unconsciously, exposing its hidden energy within the act of seeing. 

I now use digital cameras, not just as a source of imagery but as a gateway to yet another dynamic process hidden within the dna of the computer. Natural energy is transformed into images via the camera lens, these images are then transformed into pixels – into a parallel landscape of transformative digital energy. Grass becomes fur, solids become transparent, light becomes volume, an instant becomes an object of extended study. Material objects dematerialize into semi-transparent blurs in which foreground and background lose their former identity. In contrast, immaterial qualities of pure light and color take on unexpected substance and become ‘objects’ in their own right — streaks and washes of color develop an almost painterly presence equal to the now-translucent solid forms, creating a single — almost biological — texture. This equivalence is reinforced by the relatively low resolution of the original captures, in which a common fabric of individual pixels subsumes all. Each stage in the process — the original image captures, their processing in software, and their final rendition in the complex act of printing is an opportunity for discovery, in which the dance between the physical and digital languages, the weave of nature and technology, is ever alive.

Seeing is a kind of thinking, an instantaneous synthesis from a chaos of simultaneous visual impressions — a coherent whole, a single perception, a unique observation. In these images, as they deconstruct that process, the observer is observed — navigating unexplored territory in which the process is the product, and the journey itself becomes the destination.

Editions

Pasadena Museum of California Art, installation

Michael D Dobry now then, now now The world that April Greiman has created with her digital camera and computer in Drive-by shooting is a world of light. Light that is reflected off objects, to be sure, but is not only being used to define them as objects. Like the airlight that gives a sense of sky, or the blur of a passing railing or streak of a pair of headlights, it is light using objects as its pretext. In that process, of making objects into ethereal moments, April Greiman has used chance and randomness as the gateway to her own sensibility. It is this use of the random that gives her the material on which to work, that allows her to express her vision. This vision is always an exploration. You don't have the feeling that she has a predetermined image in mind, but rather follows her sense of surprise. How does one judge this work aesthetically? Is it enough to interleave randomness into the shooting, processing and viewing of these vast sheets of paper? Is it enough to make these objects abstract through computation? There is certainly the pleasure of discovering the layers of processing that has turned these 'objects' in the world into layers of ink on paper, layers that in turn create moments of depth and dimensionality in unexpected places. It is sometimes as though you can see behind the light itself, as it brushes a landscape only to obscure it, or reaches for an object only to let it slip away into pure illumination. A horizon transmutes into the edge of an object; a boundary blurs into the surrounding space. These images explore the tension between technology and feeling. They take a 'now then' and implicate it in a 'now now.' If nature loves to hide, as Heraclites said, then the process of revelation through the intuitive capture and manipulation of graphic objects is the unifying aesthetic here, as a scientist might reveal a secret of nature. Enough of the landscape remains visible to tie the image to the world, but enough manipulation has been achieved that the process of perception is revealed through the processing itself. It is Ilke the feeling of depth in painting: just enough handling of the pigment and canvas has occurred that we understand the language of representation the artist has developed, while at the same time the nature of the oil and fabric become the medium of the artist's presence. With Greiman, the material is part of the process. The machine is invited to participate in just the way as the viscosity of the oil and pigments manipulated in their colloidal suspension. In this revelation of the fabricator through the medium, we can see it is an information processing problem. How many levels of context are relevant to its production and to our understanding? How many levels of awareness is the medium capable of, and how is that achieved without falling into an infinite regression? In metaphor one thing becomes another, and by their combination create a world in which they are now one thing in a kind of dynamic tension. The resolution of the paradox of arbitrary difference - a new situation in which things that aren't designed to merge discover a context in which to do so, a situation where one thing folds into the context of another without losing its own identity. It is inevitably something completely new, an intuitive synthesis of incompatible. Objects dissemble their qualities as objects while they disappear into graphic landscapes or, on the contrary, define them. Horizons take the place of edges, colors define tenses, masses of hue convey nostalgia or a bright, abrupt blue becomes an Instance of now. It is in this process that a certain childlike glee at things that twinkle, that shimmer on the edges of focus and identity, meets with a refinement of the use of light to generate mood. Monumental and intimate, formal and impulsive, gestural and calculated, it produces a sort of tromp l'oeil of the spirit. A refinement of the obvious points back to the glamour of innocence. In the end there is no real story, but rather a slipping under the surface of things that feels like getting under the skin. This without ever losing the fact that the photo is an object, suspended there in front of us. In using the camera and computer as her means of expression, April has passed from the topographic to the photographic and on to the ideographic. The personal, the random and the algorithmic have been folded together like a fine pastry into something unique, expressive and explorative. With this amalgam, she has been able to create a new means of expression with which to explore her fascination with light and form Even the objects her lens selects become tools for this research

Marcos Novak arrested questions: april greiman’s drive-by shooting questioning the world 1. We live our days presuming to know the world, or, at the very least, to know our present moment in the world. If nothing else, at least the instant of experience seems to us to be accessible in a semblance of fullness: sounds, sights, textures, the materiality of the sensual world seems immediate and unmediated. Upon this bedrock of sensation we build perception, then cognition, then the higher structures of our consciousness. Our view of the world is a construct, a rhetorical argument in our ongoing debate with the realities of the world and of each other. As a construct, it must always remain subject to criticism, and questioning this construct is tantamount to questioning our entire worldview. Critically, one listens to an argument looking for premise and structure. As every strong philosophical warrior knows, the best place to contest an argument is at its premises, that is to say, at its axiomatic foundation. “Etant donée....” “being given…,” says Marcel Duchamp, echoing science in the title of his last work: Etant donnés: 1. la chute d’eau/2. le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas.), upon the given we build reality. Hence, to challenge an argument, the “given,” the axiom, that which is taken for granted, must become the not-given, the not-granted, the foundation no longer available to support a superstructure of conclusions. After the premises, the second best place to confront an argument is at the weak links in its logical armature, the faults in the syllogistic structure itself. Premises can be wrong, and arguments can be poorly constructed, and all sorts of erroneous conclusions can be assembled upon the fallacies that ensue. What is at stake in such considerations is not just rhetorical advantage. As with just about everything we endeavor, what we pay for, we pay with our lives - each argument contains an epistemology, a way of knowing the world, a set of principles that soon permeate how we come to see the world and ourselves in it. Sometimes, most times, when what is at issue is minor, when its consequences are too quiet and subtle, we do not notice the effect of a misunderstanding. Other times, when what is at issue is quite fundamental, the consequences, once understood, are hard to overlook or overestimate. Now, what if what we take for granted, the immediacy of our moment in the world, is not granted? What if, by selective acts of questioning through the use of attention and technology, the premises and structures of the given become not only not-given, but are actually, beautifully, taken away? The more deeply and sharply focused this questioning of assumptions is focused, the higher up the structure of our constructed reality the shiver of reconsiderations must tremble. 2. The basic epistemology of our global civilization is based on a few core elements: space-time, mass-energy, information-entropy, wave-particle, the notion of the atomic, and so on. Much of this worldview is abstract, counter-intuitive, and at odds with our immediate sense of reality. What if, with a digital camera and its attendant toolset, one began to question our immediate sensation/perception/cognition of the world by placing an overlay of these core elements (space-time, mass-energy, information-entropy, wave-particle, etc.) upon the given moment, so that the moment itself became not-given? That is to say, what if, with a simple digital camera and acts of heightened attention, one converted this abstract contemporary epistemology into a corresponding phenomenology, the formula into a lived image, making the counter-intuitive and abstract present and concrete? Reality itself would then shift, a new sense of the world would emerge, and we would no longer be able to walk into the day with old perceptions. In this exhibition, we are considering work presented under the heading of “drive-by shooting;” we are aware that this is digital work, work assembled of bits and pixels, the “atoms” of information and image in our time. Moreover, motion and violence imply space-time and mass-energy. Little by little we see that, together, the formal and actual elements upon which these images depend establish a nearly one-to-one correspondence to space-time, mass-energy, information-entropy, wave-particle, and the attendant notion of the atomic, as outlined above. 
What is a “drive-by shooting” anyway? What do these words imply, once we break through their surface, linger on them, dig into them, look at them through this filter I have put forward? 3. “Drive-by” implies a timeframe, a narrow window of opportunity, a bracketing of the “now” between a near past and a near future. Paradoxically, the velocity of the drive-by results in a dilation of time - the moment which would have been instantaneous is now extended to fill the duration of the drive-by, the span between approaching and leaving the scene, and attention shifts temporal gears - the normally imperceptible duration of the drive-by gets stretched into a length of time we can attend to, and higher actual speed then implies slower perceptual motion, implies longer attention, implies greater revelation of detail, in a chain of cinematic consequences we would normally overlook. “Drive-by” also implies a vehicle, a driver, perhaps also a passenger, in any case an Heisenbergian observer who, by observing, alters reality, and a trajectory, a course, a path, in other words various and complex flavors of agency and intention, activity and passivity, contingency and purpose, knowing where you’re going - or realizing you’re being carried wherever the road and the driver want to take you. “Shooting,” in turn, even if random, implies aim (intention, of another kind now), giving (attention) and taking (a picture, a life). Coupled with driving, it suggests an animal or urban safari, an expedition, and, in the end, the fundamental act of the hunt. And, of course, there is an allusion to an act of focused violence, and violence is nothing if not the sudden and disruptive transfer of energy. Here, then, are gathered the elements of the epistemology of our times, elements that are at once perceptually unfamiliar and yet accurate to how we actually know the world intellectually. Like wormholes in space-time, these works tunnel through the differences between the intellectual and the perceptual, and offer up a shift in how we can attend each moment. In “Camera Lucida,” his brilliant essay about photography, Roland Barthes articulates a way of comprehending what differentiates one expressive medium from another based on a threefold structure. First, there is the “studium.” the level of competency in the medium; second, there is the “punctum,” the point the medium is trying to make, and, In “Camera Lucida,” his brilliant essay about photography, Roland Barthes articulates a way of comprehending what differentiates one expressive medium from another based on a threefold structure. First, there is the “studium,” the level of competency in the medium; second, there is the “punctum,” the point the medium is trying to make, and, third, there is a second, more profound “punctum,” a “stigmatum” the “stain” through which a work addresses not only its subject matter, but its entire field. It works like this: I see a photograph that moves me: I register that it is a well exposed, well composed photograph (the studium); I see that it is a photograph about, say, to make the example topical, a gang war, a street battle about to happen, which is why it was taken in the first place (the punctum); so far, so good, but I notice the date: the gang war has already happened, the gang members are already dead, the catastrophe that appears imminent in the photograph has already transpired. Barthes isolates this as the core of what photography is about, this oscillation between what is imminent and what is already enacted, to which the photograph, as photograph, gives evidence. There is a claim upon reality that the photograph makes that other expressive media do not make: this, which will be, is already past. Its evidentiary claim is so strong that is collapses time. What then of digital photography, what of the work of April Greiman, of these “drive-by” shootings? Are these photographs in the sense that Barthes has described? Or is their “stigmatum” of a different order? If they do not give evidence to what will and has already transpired, what do they give evidence to? 4. Surely, they are handsome, beautiful, accomplished, at the level of the “studium” they are strong and confident; surely, there is a point to their being photographed, persistently, over the last two decades: their point, their “punctum,” is the title of this show - “drive-by shootings, “ investigations of capture of the attention to fleeting time, among other things. But their “stigmatum” the part of them that punctures us till we bleed a little, till there is a stain on our armor, what is that? Shot, selected, edited, cropped, processed, these images are a distillation of strange transformations, of moments of transmutation, the precisely chosen parts of an image in which time and light conspire to have us question reality. They do not rely on a claim to reality; in fact the disdain the ordinary that remains ordinary. Instead, they methodically undermine reality and seek out all that is aberrant, but not gratuitously so. They seek those changes that are telling: traces of light become solid, near and far reverse, location becomes indeterminate, solid figures become ghostly, trees whirl into dance like flames in a vortex, the normally subservient digital grain of pixels becomes as carefully attended to as any conventionally figural element of the image, the still world becomes animistic, and the whole is suffused with the mood of a hallucination not induced by drugs, but rather by an accuracy to the rendition of what a moment may feel like if the hierarchy of the world collapses - not as an accurate record of what any specific moment in the life of any specific person feels like, but as a proposition of a potential moment in the potential life of a potential person in a potential but unspecified circumstance, in a potentially infinitely reconfigurable world. Seeing them, one can imagine being there (but where?), being someone (but who?), being in an important temporal pivot point, at a decisive juncture (but to what?), and feeling a perceptual vertigo, the dizziness of a moment between moments, like catching the blur of what the world looks like as you turn suddenly to see who is behind you, friend or foe, thrill or threat, and in the turning discover that your sensory world is just a construct that this moment is forcing you to question. In the end, the stigmatum of these images is not their claim on objective reality - what has transpired - but their embodiment of an awareness of the objectivity of mutability in both the world and in the construct we call our consciousness. Their stigmata are potentiality and transformation themselves, the strange superposition of quantum states brought to a scale we can understand in images that are forever polyvalent and vibrating. They are not statements; they are not answers; they are not even questions: they are the act of questioning itself, arrested.

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Sponsors

Mac Hobert / NASH Editions
Digital Imaging Consultant and Printmaker

Widely regarded as the world's first digital printmaking studio, Nash Editions has established an international reputation for fine art photographic output. Founded in 1991, by Graham Nash and Mac Holbert, Nash Editions celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.


Insync Media / Harold Huttas
Catalog Printing and Underwriting

Insync.Media is an award-winning graphic arts company, utilizing state-of-the-art platesetting and printing press technologies. Our comprehensive services include printing, electronic pre-press and imaging, media asset management, as well as training and consulting. Insync.Media produces, at the highest standards, multi-color brochures, annual reports, entertainment packaging, collateral and more. Print representative: Ray Ochoa


Catalog Paper
Text printed on 78# Topkote Dull Cover, Cover printed on 130# Topkote Dull Cover. Paper traded by Marubeni and manufactured by the Oji Paper Co


Premier Imaging Products
Exhibition Paper and Coating Sponsor, Mark Perez, Director, Digital Imaging

The prints in the exhibition were printed on PremierArt Hot-Press-325qsm-C2S paper- A high
quality digital inkjet, totally acid-free and archival, 100% cotton rag fine art paper.


I.T. Supplies
I.T. Supplies is a full line digital imaging reseller based in Rolling Meadows, IL, carrying all major brands, including Epson, HP, Xerox and Canon. 100% genuine products are discounted everyday.. Free fast shipping on all orders over $75.


Roto Architects
Architectural details, installation support, and gravity consulting.
www.rotoark.com / (323) 226-1112


Larry Baca
Consultant in digital imaging and color management over the last 25 years.


Fine Art Solutions
Collaborating with both fledgling and established artists, as well as museums and galleries around the world, the team helps to bring art projects to their fullest expression, from concept
consultation through finishing, presentation and installation of the artwork.


Exhibition Research Sponsors
Academy Art Publishing / Richard Childers, with Roland Technologies


Lizza Fine Art / Bob Lizza, President