destroying art

a working title,  work in progress, initial thoughts
distressed images – negatives and transparencies

My distressed images/destroyed art series explores the precious nature of the photograph and the destruction of something once finished, to produce a piece of art.

When I was a student I was introduced to the work of Arnulf Rainer and was drawn to the works of his painted out art and the painted out works of other artists. His work inspired me to experiment altering/damaging and ultimately destroying my negatives and prints in the darkroom and studio with; scissors, paint, knives, vintage darkroom chemicals and even my toaster. My experiments with film were sidelined by the advance of digital technology and tools such as Photoshop, but the influence of Rainer’s techniques lingered.

Revisiting the destructive processes was motivated by a film lab ruining my transparencies from a trip to Detroit MI where I had the chance to photograph a near impossible to access and gorgeous abandoned church. I felt absolutely crushed when the lab handed me my mangled rolls of film and said “sorry about your luck”. I was also dumbfounded by my reaction. How could a photographic image be that precious?

One of my images had been torn exactly along the line of a curved balcony so I scanned the pieces of the image and rebuilt the photo, the result dimmed the importance of all my other pictures from the trip. And so I picked through my negatives and transparencies (some I have never documented or scanned) and got to work re-birthing my images by distressing and destroying them.

This “distressed images” series attempts to explore intent that is now lost and the natural history of destruction through the employ of images of abandoned, decimated, gutted, crumbling and neglected vacant structures. I manipulate, sabotage and ruin my images/negatives with fire and chemicals (not unlike the arson that plagues the buildings of Detroit MI I shot) to produce something new. The result begs the question: Is this a process of creation or a product of chance? Can the viewer anyone tell if I carefully applied a flame with a lighter or just dropped the negative in a tray of flammable liquids and tossed in a match?

I want to provoke people to consider if Is the final image they see is more beautiful or poignant than the one they you could try to imagine it once was.  Has something been lost or been created?