Spring unfurled. The laneways were a chaos of all the things that winter had discarded — dead plants denuded of their pots but still root-bound by those memories; broken heaters; a mop; a car door. In the midst of this chaos I walked, and photographed, and made installations. Some days seemed to suit one piece of equipment more than others, and would predominate the type of work I made. The Instax liked deep shadows and unexpected patches of light. The Zip was more unpredictable, and in this sense more playful. The new camera was daunting for the first few days, until I grew accustomed to its way of seeing. Then it became the easiest of all three to use, and threatened me as such with my own laziness and insecurity. It was tempting to spend the day simply adding images to my collection.
For the installs required not only more time and more participation, but more exposure to the public. I felt this exposure in the act of setting up an installation: my deep-seated desire remain invisible, and thus allow the work an ambiguity of context, had not dissipated since the badge experiments. I also felt exposed by the work I left behind, because I had no grand plan for what I was doing. I was quite literally practicing in public, trying to find the shape of this game entirely through instinct. This meant attending to my uncertainty and attempting to discern its origin. Why did I hesitate, in this particular moment? What was my ambivalence trying to say? Was it merely giving voice to that eternal doubting critic, or was it telling me a secret about this magic that I sought?
These questions carried extra weight now that I was finally and somewhat unexpectedly playing with others. The installs required no particular response; like the frequencies with which they were entangled, they were an invitation to perceptual participation. But what exactly did I want others to perceive? T1
T1:Many months after I began making the installations, I found a conceptual model for these works in David Abram’s writing on the communal nature of perception.
‘The encounter with other perceivers continually assures me that there is more to any thing, or to the world, than I myself can perceive at any moment,’ Abram writes. ‘Besides that which I directly see of a particular oak tree or building, I know or intuit that there are also those facets of the oak or building that are visible to the other perceivers that I see … I sense that as a perceivable presence it already existed before I came to look at it, and indeed that it will not dissipate when I turn away from it, since it remains an experience for others — not just for other persons, but … for other sentient organisms, for the birds that nest in its branches and for the insects that move along its bark, and even, finally, for the sensitive cells and tissues of the oak itself, quietly drinking sunlight through its leaves. It is this informing of my perceptions by the evident perceptions and sensations of other bodily entities that establishes, for me, the relative solidity and stability of the world’ (1997, p. 39).
The installations participate in this establishing of the real, but in a playfully subversive manner — suggesting patterns and relationships beyond the normal ordering of our perception. What do we notice? What meaning do we make of the things we choose to see? What would it be like to perceive differently?