Tuesday, October 04, 2005

When The Images Say Miles Of Words: Zev Tiefenbach "Binary By Submission" At Zeke' S Gallery

Today, I went to the Zeke's Gallery (gallery of Chris Hand,
in Montreal).

By strange circumstances, I had never yet visited a single
exhibition in this gallery.

I am not the only one. This off-circuit gallery within the standard
running paths of visual arts in Montreal, although popular with the
anglophone "underground" crowds of this city, is very poorly
covered by the major magazines of art from Quebec.

It is specialized in artist's first exposures (beginning artists), such as the photographer Zev Tiefenbach who presents there these days the samples of what probably constitutes his very first photographic series.

Before commenting on Zev, I must add that, in spite of the originality
of the galerist who makes a point of preserving
the spirit of the "salon" of the early European galleries,
I was left with the impression that the artistic direction of this gallery
is constrained by the fact that the gallery is also a place where concerts and readings are constantly staged. More traditional mediums and works of smaller sizes
are perhaps better adapted to this sort of 'round-the-hall mise-en-scène.

However, the works of Tiefenbach thwarts this rules of the familiar, thanks to an eccentric system consisting in titrating the works with telephone numbers that one can dial on the spot (thanks to the cellular phone generously lent by the galerist) in order to hear various texts and sounds which accompany the photographs.

I had already seen photographs accompanied by sound (diffused by loudspeakers: one thinks in particular of Nan Goldin), or sound works using the media of telephone numbers (The_User, Tagny Duff, Steve Heimbecker, etc.) but it was the first time that I ever met a work of this kind, and in spite of the confusion through the effort of reattributing all the bits of strident sonorities that I heard, and the general length of this process (it takes you a few minutes of time for each photograph), I remained charmed by the approach of this artist, who also proposes additional typed texts affixed on the laminés which contain his photographs.

The sound excerpts and the photographs together borrow from a flexible narrative form
which in my opinion leaves the spectator not out of choices on his way of approaching the works. Chris Hand preferred to disperse the 2 or 3 series of photographs in the room, rather than to gather them in groups, apparently in an aim to underline the freedom of interpretation of the spectator, who instead of trying to construct a narrative plot by joining together all of the photographs (a plot which probably does not exist), is invited to create free associations, and thus pursue a work launched by the artist.

One guesses easily after a certain period that the artist focussed on 3 precise subjects:

1 - an urban road-movie, which presents details collected on the road, mostly motifs of driveway architectures or route indications, but also including scenes collected in the countryside, as in a come-and-go ride between the surburbian zones in (under-)development, and the peripheral sectors of villages surrounding those urban zones (kind of focussing on the "waste ground" within a binary relation between city and countryside, if one tries to understand the strange choice of title for the exhibit). In short, a poetry of displacement, of nomadity, whereas these photographs often present cars or other elements able to "move" (ducks), when not simply presenting situations of blocking (car stuck in the snow (middle photograph, image incoming from the site of Zeke).

2 - "traces" of human lives: domestic objects left by their users after use, or about to be used (when a human figure is present). His captures of "intimate" zones (old mattress, refrigerator, chair in a restaurant (on the left)) are particularly inviteful for narration, and point out to the work of Sophie Calle, who is recognized for her psychological explorations of objects extracted
from the banal.

3 - a freer series including "texts", mixing all kinds of "urbano-picturesque" images of garages, stores, empty parking lots, or restaurant chairs (at left). A kind of physical voyage in the No man's Land of the urban peripheries, but which is lived interiorly, through the veil of an anti-pudic neo-romanticism. The photographs seem to have found themselves so much they represent non-places ("(514) 907-0775 Ext 808" (2005)), or rather, places which seem to have been built as bad grass ("How To Embalm Love" (2005)).Shop signs and windows, garage door: the artist seem to create a bond between signage and insignification. The texts seek to humanize these images and to insufflate life upon them ("I Forgot Which Muscles Were Its" (2005)). (the
photographs all come from this press release from Zeke' S Gallery.)

By adding samples of poetry or noises to his photographs, the artist create a panopy of "sound postcards" which subvert those that we can find in dollar stores. They temporalise photographs which usually are called to be engraved in the eternal. They force us to recall the time of the photographic act, and ask from the spectator to put him(her)self in the skin of the author: what occurred at that time, there, exactly? Which emotion influenced the photographic gesture? There in this direction,
Tiefenbach established a sort of system connected with that of the photographic novel, while preferring to split up moments of emotional intensity rather than to sink into the indulgence of racontage, which would have been dangerous with a work often reaching close to the anecdotal.

With complete freedom, Zev Tiefenbach proposes a new way of pointing out the bonds between photography andcinema. I can't remember if it is Bazin which used the term "monstrative" to underline the narrative potential of every image, but the work of Zev is an excellent proposal on this subject. An attempt at moving a little further, to draw around the image the imaginary
elements which it inspires.

In these regards, I consider the exhibit currently presented at Zeke Gallery as the best of the expo of the Montreal month of photography "which does not form part of it", and I wish ardently that Martha Langford discovers this proposal on the imaginative capacity of the image which will have certainly passed by her as we speak (Martha Langford is chief curator of this Mois De La Photo de Montreal, whose topic this year is the evocative power of the image).

Returning to Zeke:

Chris Hand is also the editor of one of the most splendid blogs that I know, Zeke's Gallery, which treats of all kinds of subjects as well local as international, with a clear portion dedicated to the "criticism of criticisms on art" (you read well, it consist of evaluating critical exhibit reviews).

This blog is parasitized by many comments of my share.
I am a big fan of the challenges and proposals which this man can
launch, most ambitious until now consistsing in a meeting with the new director of the Museum Of Contemporary art of Montreal, Marc Mayer, on the subject of the condition of Quebec contemporary art.

These meetings will take place on October 18 and November 2:
the first in the gallery, the following one at the museum.

We will be speaking about it.

Cedric Caspesyan

Zev Tiefenbach: "Binary By Submission"
From August 25 at October 4, 2005
Zeke' S Gallery
Montreal, Quebec
H2W 1Y4

Blogist: http://zekesgallery.blogspot.com/

PS: you missed it?
Bah, the next expo at this gallery
will surely be worth a glance:
abstract art by Chris Straw (if my epellation is
exact), which ressembles a strange meeting between
François Lacasse, Paul McCarthy, and
retro-gogo psychedelic design.


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