A winter visit to San Servelo, during Photo Venezia, inspired me to explore how technology and other artistic modes permit light to point to the invisible. While working on antique sacred books written in Old Church Slavonic, a dead language, I imagined how the data and energy recorded in decaying paper - turning to dust before my eyes - could be rendered visible.
As I returned to my studio in Canada, work to develop a system - an artistic language - to revive the ancient texts began. While pondering the meaning of the Greek word ‘fotografia” - to transform or transfigure with light - I explored the tools and techniques available to me. Two disparate modes fueled my curiosity: the scanner and its light source, and ancient encaustic techniques dating back to the mummy panels of Fayoum. Ultimately, I discovered a formal vocabulary with which to work and make the absent present – a thread weaving its way throughout my works.
My series Sound of Repetition uses scans of three-dimensional objects as its source material and as a means of recording the extinct sounds found in the sacred books. The reworking of the files follows a precise process intended to heighten the mystery and beauty of these texts. The scanner considers the Old Church Slavonic letters, the spine and edges of the books, and the paper - the material itself from which the books are made - as well as the ghostly images that appear from the “other side”. Hundreds of pages, varying in opacity and contrast, imbued with a color palette reminiscent of chiaroscuro orchestral compositions, become luminous and dreamy. The final images - made of layers of text and time - painted with pigments and wax blend layers of history and time, explore the inextricable relationship between photography and painting, and produce a mysterious and intriguing view of space, time and action.
The days spent mapping thousands of pages into a single image became a performative experience - an exploration of the physical and metaphysical space between letters, words, sentences, pages, and books. In this place of transience, the known and unknown flirted with one another. The movement and rhythm implicit in the exploration of this space, the reading of sentences, the chanting, the flipping and scanning of pages, the mulling of pigments and hand waxing of the final works challenged my perception of photography and the photograph. The source imagery, decidedly flat and pointing to Roland Barth’s notion of a “flat death”, was transfigured into objects seething with energy through a codified performance. Through the scan process and the subsequent painting of these images, the objects from antiquity go through a process of transfiguration, becoming reanimated and renewed.