How Was The Everything is Anything Concept Formulated, What Was The Driving Inspiration Behind The Project?
The driving inspiration behind the project is contained in its title. On the outset, we had agreed that photography in the contemporary moment was in an unfixed state: from its context to its representational qualities, every aspect of a photograph can now be changed, by both its makers and consumers alike. This fact is a prevalent topic for contemporary photography, and a certain aesthetic seems to have developed around it. We wanted to enter into this conversation, not necessarily to observe it, or to question whether or not it was true, but to ask new questions about how it might be used. Everything is Anything Else is as much an investigation into these qualities as it is a challenge issued to them, to see how far they can take us.
Through Your Website You State That The Work Displayed Is Not ‘Complete’, ‘But Merely A Pausing Point To Invite The Public To Engage In This Dialogue Along With Us.’ How Important Is Discussion To Your Practice, What Do You Gain From Discussing With Others About Your Work? Do You Feel That This Is Something That Is Fundamentally Lacking Within The Photographic Community?
Discussion is an essential aspect of our work. We use an open source model, making all of our source material, our research, our experiments, sometimes even the cocktail napkin notes from our meetings available to the public through our blog. We want people to be able to respond to us, to challenge us, and to turn us on to new things. One way to make that consequential is to make the whole lineage of the project available. The exchange within the group is shaped as a provisional model for the larger scale exchange that may occur within the photographic community and the world once an image or project has been put out there, just within a smaller, and thus accelerated and more controlled environment. So discussion happens on multiple fronts.
With the Internet, the infrastructure for discussion exists now more than ever, and how we choose to engage that structure dictates where it takes us. If we engage it passively, the online discussion risks becoming just one more surface level social network where everyone “likes” everyone else’s “likes” and no real discussion is generated. Conversely, it also seems possible to engage it actively, and integrate it as a tool to facilitate innovative collective action. We can’t claim to have created any new modes of discussion or discourse with this project, but our citations and influences can be made easily accessible, and we would like to expand on this accessibility and use it to greater and greater effect as we move forward.
How Is Your Working Process, Do You Sit In A Room Together & Work Collectively, Or Do You Each Take Your Own Images & Collaborate In The Editing Process?
Collaboration takes many forms for us. We wrote the guidelines for the project, and had the first exhibition (Third Party Gallery) marked on the calendar before we had made a single image. When the process began, we proposed a loose criterion of objects and phenomena that we felt were worth exploring. At that time we were spread out all over the world, but we kept in close contact. We emailed each other images, restaged those images in our respective locations and sent them back. We also sent each other physical objects, traded textual descriptions of images we would like to see made, and started a blog we could all access.
When we reconvened back here in the Midwest, we took stock of the images and ideas we had developed, and started to identify the ones that had been returned to the most. We then made those images again and again, changing the scale, content, formal qualities, etc. with each iteration. As the deadline approached we did a kind of two week intensive: all of us together in the studio creating what would become the large framed images in the show- literally all looking through the viewfinder and making small adjustments to the scene until we agreed we had reached a stopping point.
People often want to know which one of us is responsible for which of the images but the truth is that it is a definitively collaborative process. Therefore, the images are unattributable to anyone but the group as a whole.
You State That ‘Believability’ Is One Of The Themes That Drives Your Work, To What Extent Does An Image’s Authenticity Relate To Its ‘Value’? Do You Believe That Once An Image Has Been Edited, & Clearly Edited, It Adds Or De – Values An Image?
Our stance on believability in the photograph is that it is in a state of constant flux, and the dichotomy between authentic and inauthentic is a false one. The argument for or against discrepancies in value between edited versus unedited images feeds this dichotomy.
Photography is currently in an in-between state, where the viewer deploys two conflicting systems of reading simultaneously. On the one hand, we now consider photographs to have a high possibility, even probability, of having been digitally manipulated- to the point where we judge photographs to be false until proven true. On the other, we still bring with us an expectation of some sort of indexicality within the photograph, that it point to something outside of itself. This conflict of systems causes us no consternation. Rather, we have approached it as a practicable dimension in photography, one borne out of tension and full of possibilities. Possibilities for what exactly remains an important question for us, one that we will continue to study. For now we are more interested in making the question more substantial than we are in attempting to answer it.
What Does The Term ‘Still Life’ Mean To You?
The still life is an opportunity to record an object or phenomenon photographically for the purpose of seeing that object with greater clarity, or perhaps just a different sort of clarity than might be achievable by viewing that object face-to-face. Many of our still-life images present a uniquely photographic perspective, i.e. the phenomenon or arrangement of objects photographed could only appear as they do in that photograph. The still life also allows us an opportunity to explore an idea we’ve been referring to as “slow-Photoshop” where we recreate the visual effect of commonly used Photoshop techniques in-camera. We began exploring this idea as a response to the dichotomy presented earlier- the authenticity or inauthenticity of an image based on the degree to which it’s been manipulated. By creating images that appear to have been digitally manipulated, the post-production stage becomes more of a pre-production in our process. The use of Photoshop in photography has become so prevalent that, in some cases, it makes more sense to pre-visualize an image as it might look manipulated and work backwards from there in trying to figure how to construct it, in-camera, so it appears to have been manipulated. We’re interested in the psychology of digital production, and this process is a way to bring that psychology into question.
How Important Is The Gallery Space To The Work You Produce? Do You Consider The Internet as Important?
We find the Internet to be a generally more robust platform for the exhibition/dissemination of our work, but the gallery still serves an important function as well. The Internet gives us a tremendous amount of space to work within, virtual as it may be. Here we don’t have to limit the amount of information we present, and its categorisation and accessibility can be as clear or cryptic as we like. Another reason online presentation is advantageous for us is due to the fact that we live in the middle of nowhere Midwest right now and yet can still seamlessly participate within a larger community.
But again, we want to take part in the larger conversation happening within contemporary photography. This is a conversation that is in the process of being historicized to be sure, and even if our goal is a transgression or subversion of that historicization, it will be more effective if we are integrated into it. If the work remains autonomous it has nothing to directly challenge, nothing to create friction against. The gallery exhibition is a well-established channel through which to officially enter this conversation.
Can You Tell Us A Little About Your Current Exhibition? Did You Produce New Works Specifically For The Show?
The images in the current show are mostly consistent with the images in the first exhibition of the work; however, there is a three-dimensional component to each show that is highly flexible. We present some of the objects seen in the photographs and objects that, directly or indirectly, informed the photographs. We’re interested in the relationship between the objects, as seen face-to-face, and the photographs of the objects. Nothing is ever the same.
What Names Have Inspired Your Work Over The Years, & More Recently?
We looked at lots of stuff along the way. Larry Sultan and Mike Mandell’s book Evidence came up quite a few times, both for its content and its collaborative nature. Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs work The Great Unreal was informative for similar reasons. We’re also really into the stuff Lodret Vandret puts out; they have a cool collaborative/collective/curatorial model that seems highly productive. Current artists that directly or indirectly gave us something to think about would include Jacob Riddle, Jordan Tate, Thomas Albdorf, Jaclyn Wright, Lance Brewer, Kyle Laidig and Garrett Lockhart to name very few. Josh Smith helps us get critical, and we keep an eye on ilikethisart.net, latentimage.us, ilikethisblog.com, and of course Wandering Bears.