The Dusty Subject - Cameron Bishop 2003
Ive seen maps. Ive seen figures. Ive seen Foucault. Ive seen enemies. However, the image that coagulates, with a gathering strength, each morning I look through our bedroom door - into the hall where Lloyd Godmans artifact #9 hangs - is that of a mad koala. Perhaps this gestalt is becoming stronger because Ive been living away from Australia for almost two years now. Ive lived beyond its borders, watched and read of its retreat its cowering foetal position getting tighter and tighter - even as that privileged term light gains momentum behind the resurrection (in hyperbole only) of the nation state.
I think I might be Lloyds mad koala. This is what I see as the image continually stamps itself into my existence. I have to see something, dont I? I cannot see the dust.
The damp environment in which the negatives sat for thirty years simultaneously destroyed and liberated the images that sit in this exhibition. Like Foucaults man in the sand analogy, the moisture washed away any trace of idealised memory as it attacked the negatives. But, ironically, you need liquid to drive the photographic process: alkalines and acids from the soil under the Godmans house combined to destroy and resurrect - in concert with time, dust and the artist the images in the artifact series.
When Lloyd discovered the negatives under his house, what could we hope to see: family snaps, smiles, and sun and light? This is an expectation. Perhaps if the negatives had been given the right eco-system for survival we may have seen something more sinister.
We could dust off the psychoanalysts couch and really get into some fragmentation. We might be able to remember some of our own conflicting, disjointed thoughts that we were having when a particular photograph was taken. We can sense/remember our fragmentation as we look at these moments, because weve been shot.
They often bear, for me anyway, the Barthesian death sentence. But if it hasnt been shot, how can it be dead? The camera/shotgun (in Lloyds photograms there is not a weapon) has not killed anyone, so how is something born? Our memories are pregnant. The dust has settled on the negatives in such a way over a period of thirty years that the objects move beyond mere enlargements of settled dust. They move beyond abstraction and punch me with their punctum. Im forced to invest the image with my collected experience, just as I do with an object like a shotgun as I take a picture. I am Lloyds shotgun. 3 Before I use my shotgun, I must realise that there is always a lag between the object and our perception of it, so that what we actually see is the past. In order to move through space safely I literally create wholes: stereotypes that sit in the middle of my vision to counter the hole that, literally, sits in the middle of my vision. This is the optic disk effect: it causes a blind spot where the nerve receptors leave the retina to form the optic nerve. There is no light here.
When I look out at Lloyds artifact #9 from the warmth of my bed the impressions I get from the contrasts in the indiscriminate image of the photogram are conditioned by an ensemble of relations.5 Just like the objects formation, in its site of abjection, in the heterotopia of Lloyd Godmans basement. 6 For thirty years, maybe more, people slept above these artifacts in this space. There is no light here, 7 in this space that is linked with all the others (the used, necessary space of the home) and yet somehow at variance with them. 8The space, the basement, the homes heterotopia, reflects the movements made in the home it supports. The dust on the negatives realises the movements of the occupants in the home, in the bedroom. Probably, they have more accurately recorded time spent in the domicile than the original images that inhabited the negatives to begin with.
To look in the mirror, or into Lloyds dusty negative, is to see a heterotopia:
My self is reconstituted when I look at the dust that collected in the Godmans heterotopia, and yet I am absent at the point where I focus, so too is the centre of my vision, which, because of the optic disk effect is a hole: there is no light there. I will lap up anything you give me. I am Lloyd Godmans blind, fragmented puppy.
I like to chew on my own tail, much like the scientists that have discovered a way to stop light. Theyve created their own heterotopia, their absent selves are inside that glass chamber they stop light in. Perhaps they are pre-empting the end of our sun. This is okay, seeing as though in quantum mechanics, according to the strange rules of light, matter can be in two places at once. My matter is in Lloyds artifact; the Godmans movements over the last thirty years have mattered in the creation and discovery of the artifacts. Im moved to ask: what does id matter?
I desire to witness my own matter in other matter. I want to fix that matter, 12 stabilise myself, and I dont care how I do it, but I do it all the time. I am the corpse proper that fabricates itself inside the promised utopia of the sitcom. These are my given stage co-ordinates, and this is how I read when confronted by Lloyd Godmans maps: 13 I imbibe the controlled light (in analogue or digital) of the television (or computer, or gallery, or home, or nature), take my cue, suspend my disbelief, and author a mad koala. I am Lloyd Godmans mad koala. 14 15
1 This is general speculation, and it comes from anxious observation, but happy snaps, sun and light always have a flip side. They are often one big smile at an event that might be considered heterotopic. These heterotopic situations can be birthdays, holidays, and commercial festivals like Christmas Day etc
Everyone in family photographs smiles (at least theyre meant to). But if we could, somehow, rearrange the grains (or pixels) of a group/family/posed-subject snapshot to represent the dusty thoughts that are frozen behind the fixed smile, some of the subjects might be in for some serious couch time.
2 See Bill Henson and his couch potatoes.
3 Jean Baudrillard states in his book The Perfect Crime. Trans. Chris Turner, London, Verso, 1996, p.52: The fact that when I perceive this star it has perhaps already disappeared a relationship that can be extended, relatively speaking, to any physical object or living being this is the ultimate foundation, the material definition
4 Anne Marie Seward Barry, Visual Intelligence, State University of New York, 1997, p.26. Barry adds to see in whole images is not to see at all.
5 Michel Foucault, Different Spaces, in Aesthetics Method and Epistemology, Ed. James D., Faubion, Trans. Robert Hurley and Others, New Press, New York, 1998, p.178.
6 Or maybe cellar or vault or subterranean vault, I use the American terminology with regret.
7 Or in other heterotopias (according to Foucault) like the cemetery, rest home, psychiatric hospital, library, museum etc
8 Ibid. no. 4.
9 Ibid. no .4. p.179.
10 Which is scheduled, in about four billion years, to turn whatever organisms are left on our tiny planet into space dust.
11 But it doesnt matter: now the object is no longer anything but that immense and anguished desire for the other desire. Of course, the object is first known by the subject as other, as different from it, but at the moment it reduces itself to desire, the object (the artifact, the mad koala or, Lloyds art of fiction), in a tremor that is no less anguished, is not distinct from it: the two desires meet, intermingle and merge into one. From Georges Bataille, The Bataille Reader, Eds. F.Botting & S.Wilson, Blackwell Publishers, USA, 1997. p.265.
12 Much like Lloyd stabilised the dust on the negatives with fixative.
13 Which of course, as Baudrillard (Simulacrum and Simulations, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster, Stanford University Press, 1988, p.186) pointed out: the territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory. Or to put it another way, the dust coagulates to form the image of the object and it is the dust that precedes the territory. I am sensitive to dust (Im allergic to a whole host of things): it always obscures my view so I have to believe in it. The dust is the pixelated map, and I stumble through it.
14 Actually, maybe Im John Howards mad koala.
15 In his short story, Tlon, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius, (in Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings, Eds. Donald. A.Yates & James E.Irby , Penguin, UK p.29.) Jorge Luis Borge writes: We discovered (such a discovery is inevitable in the late hours of the night) that mirrors have something monstrous about them. Then Bios Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had declared that mirrors and copulation are abominable, because they both increase the number of men.