Conspicuous Absence

When I look at photographs of myself from my childhood, I always expect to get a warmer feeling then I actually do. What I get instead is best described as mournful or better still as wounding. A strange relationship exists between me and these images I keep around, pictures to document every stage of my life, pictures I am supposed to keep so I can look back and rekindle the memories. However I find that the further back these pictures reach the less they actually have to do with the memories. These once specific memories become evermore nebulous and what remains is an emotional sense, it seems to be a similar emotional sense, which I detect in other peoples photographs.

The more I examine photographs in general; I find them to contain this mournful emotionality which only makes sense because after all these images do represent, very simply, “ that which has been”. These images stick with me, and us as a culture, as reminders of the passage of time, and consequently my own and our mortality. Here incidentally appears to be a fundamental difference between photography and other modes of image making, a photograph is often the representation of a slice of time, while other constructed images are often an expression of a longer duration of time. Which interestingly enough appears to reverse itself given enough distance, the time expressed in these other images (painting for example) appears much smaller then the time now being expressed by an older photograph of that moment long ago which” has been “. The strange thing about photographic images is that most eventually become unattached and join the large group of anonymous images that float around in our culture which amount to the detritus of our “selected” visually written record. They become emotional echoes of our mortality.

When my childhood images eventually run out of hand me downs and join the other anonymous pictures of our culture I want them to be seen as the absence of me, as if I was never there, as the possibly of an escape of the sorrow inherent in the image. And of course the inescapably irony that images constructed for what is essentially a shot at immortality, are achieved by removing oneself.

This installment of photographic images is inspired by Stalinist era chicanery. Where the idea of ruthlessly editing the photographic visual narrative probably began as a method for the control of influence. I, with an updated technique, similarly painstakingly sanitize each one of these childhood pictures by editing the most personal, out. I wish to create an altered visual narrative, which ultimately ends by raising more questions about the old one. With these new re-written images are intentions of engaging the viewer in dialogs about repression as a means of control, mortality, anonymity and the interesting possibilities of historical revisionism.

About 99 days and one dark night… I thought this group of drawings would contrast nicely with the other images. The title is a play on the old prison sentence “ninety-nine years and one dark night” which meant that the offender was condemned to die in prison and remain there one extra day after his death, this, I am assuming, is an attempt to imprison the soul. These drawings, which might be seen as an attempt to capture the soul, were done in 99 consecutive days in what becamea most torturous ritual.

Language from Justin Lieberman

In his now legendary compendium of Stalin-era Soviet photography, David King reveals the ideological origins of Photoshop. Photographs are shown in various stages of alteration by Kremlin airbrushers and retouchers usually involving the removal of more and more people as they are deemed enemies of the state. Contemporary usage of photographic retouching is certainly more subtle in its approach (owing to improvements in technology) but upon close examination, no less sinister in it's motives. The Victoria's Secret catalog, a contemporary bible for retouchers, is reviled in feminist circles for the impossible physical ideals to which it holds the female body. Photographic retouching lies at the very heart of the Spectacle, presenting a mediated experience of the world that quickly eclipses real, lived, everyday experience. Much contemporary art attempts to take on the attributes that are so prevalent in the simulated world of advertising, often to ironic or humorous ends. While this irony can be an effective strategy in combating hypocrisy, ultimately it refers back to the Spectacle as central, filling more and more space with its artifice.

In contrast to this resistance through complicity, Ain Cocke's project is a solitary and meditative one. Taking photographs from his childhood as a starting point Ain has meticulously eliminated any evidence of himself as a child, so as to create the illusion that he was never there in the first place. So we are confronted with a mystery. Who made the images? In a combination of time travel, identity theft, selective memory, and historical revisionism, a tabula rasa is arrived at from which all things are possible.