Industry Standard: Meggan Gould and Andy Mattern
We all know that photographers in today’s digital era must use, learn, and maintain an astounding number of technological devices and tools. What’s easier to forget is that behind every camera, computer, software platform, and printer is a corporation – Canon, Epson, Apple, for example– that heavily influences how we create our work.
With tremendous skill and a healthy sense of humor, Meggan Gould and Andy Mattern explore our complicated relationship to photographic technologies and the companies that make them in Industry Standard, a new exhibition at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center that runs through September 24th, 2022.
“My studio practice is a study in playful resistance, an attempt to infuse flexibility—and joy—into the often rigid structures surrounding vision. I am deeply interested in the ways in which corporations shape our use of photographic technologies… So much of the labor of contemporary image-making is grounded in the electronic innards of inscrutable and proprietary machines; I liberate the raw materials and language of vision, and then I labor with them, allowing my hand to confront the machine.”
Industry Standard presents three projects by Gould, all created using her material of choice: printer ink extracted from “empty” cartridges made for Epson and Canon inkjet printers. Ink is notoriously expensive, costing hundreds of dollars for a complete set. Rather than replacing her spent cartridges – as her computer tells her to – she cracks open their plastic covers, drains out a surprising amount of remaining ink, and dips objects into it.
“Ink is the new lifeblood of photographic practice, replacing the moment of photosensitivity that used to define photographic prints. The pigment inks are proprietary, and intended with narrow purpose: to be sprayed with nuanced delicacy onto inkjet-specific paper, to reproduce photographic imagery with appropriate color accuracy. Instead: I dunk, I splash, I paint, I allow the ink to subsume the objects themselves. Objects of domestic whiteness meet the ink: Q-tips, tampons, tissues, marshmallows, rice, popcorn…sopping with photographic material, they emerge cheerfully hued, chroma-toxic.”
Next, Gould takes aim at the once-popular photo sharing site, Flickr. Using embroidery floss hand-dyed in Epson hues, she stitches comments posted by members of the Flickr community onto lumen prints on expired black and white photographic paper.
“I glean these kernals of (usually insipid, usually complimentaray) attention, and I render them permanent… as with so much of what I create: improbable acts of photochemistry, simultaneously doing penance for and paying homage to the banal.”
The largest piece in the exhibition isn’t a photograph at all, but a 14-foot-long piece of muslin. Using a sewing machine loaded with hand-dyed thread, Gould painstakingly stitches a pattern of dashed lines that will look familiar to users of Epson inkjet printers.
“Every day, in my studio, I ask the printer: Are you ok? Are you ready to print? Ten seconds later, it spits out a disposable answer, in the form of a standardized test pattern. Over the course of a few months, I respond with my hand, laboring to replicate the marks and form. I’m ok, thanks, I tell the printer, as I sew the form in an absurdly magnified response, using ink drained from the printer itself to dye the thread, and my fingers, as I stitch. I am ready, I am ok: I render it permanent, declare that I am firing on all cylinders (nozzles).”
The exhibition includes 10 images from Mattern’s series, Average Subject / Medium Distance (2018-2020). His inspiration is a collection of “Kodaguides” — handheld paper dials produced by Kodak in the mid-1900s to help amateur photographers calculate exposure and other camera settings. He photographs each guide individually, then painstakingly removes most of the text and details using a manual digital process. Viewers are left with a single word: VALUE. SHADOWS. APPROPRIATE.
“Each word is an oblique reference either to familiar photographic tropes — light, shadow, flowers — as well as recurrent judgments about the conditions and ambivalences of image making — normal, appropriate, correct,” Mattern writes.
On the adjacent wall are six images from Mattern’s series, The Sameness of the Screen, debuted together for the first time in this exhibition. The images are photographs of desktop patterns found on an old Apple Classic computer. He photographs each one, enlarges and reprints it as a cyanotype, a gesture “meant to point to the optimism and naïveté of the dawn of personal computing.”
Apple Classic users could choose from only 38 patterns to customize their desktops. “Now, as so many of us find ourselves deeply embedded in digital technology — arguably spending a significant portion of our lives in virtual space — the memory that computers used to be more like toasters is a comforting thought.”
About the Artists
Andy Mattern is a visual artist working in the expanded field of photography. His work is held in the permanent collections of SFMOMA, New Mexico Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts-Houston, and others. His projects have been favorably reviewed in publications such as Artforum, The New Yorker, Camera Austria, and Photonews. Mattern currently serves as an Associate Professor of Photography at Oklahoma State University. He holds an MFA in Photography from the University of Minnesota and a BFA in Studio Art from the University of New Mexico. He is represented by Elizabeth Houston Gallery in New York.
Follow Andy Mattern on Instagram: @andymattern, @thesurfacecollector
Meggan Gould is a photographer living and working outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied anthropology, the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies, where she studied non-fiction writing, and Speos (Paris Photographic Institute), where she finally began her studies in photography. She received an MFA in photography from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Her photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally. Her multifaceted practice uses photography, drawing, sculpture, and installation in an open-ended dissection of vision and photographic tools.
Follow Meggan Gould on Instagram: @megganlgould
Industry Standard is on view through September 24, 2022 at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver. The exhibit was curated by Samantha Johnston, CPAC’s Executive Director and Curator.
Follow the Colorado Photographic Arts Center on Instagram: @cpacphoto
Stay informed about Month of Photography Denver: @mopdenver
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