Monday, October 10, 2005

Coming home


Coming home, originally uploaded by av_producer.

Av Producer says:

Ron Diorio (av_producer) in Manhattan for life.

My old Nikon FM collects dust on my dresser because the digital darkroom transformed what I had come to know as photography. It moved me from picture taking to image making. Now the only real "photographic" moment is the end stage of the manufacturing process when a Digital C-print is pulled. For me, it has been important to have the "photographic" in the making of the object while disregarding the "photographic" in the image making process. So in a traditional sense, for me, there's not much photography to enjoy.

What I do enjoy is where image making intersects with storytelling - you frame the world - frame a point of view. In some ways "view finder" better describes what it is. The really emancipating thing has been to
find/seek/uncover the authentic - the essence of the emotional connection in the image without the "view" being my truth or something close to me. I'm always chasing that both in my own work and when I'm looking at other's work.

When I first posted on Fotolog in June 2003, I called my page "A photographic imagination." I had just read Sontag's On Photography and I wanted to put a marker down that these images should not be viewed as
documents - they were manipulated and as such the images were not representative but representational.

I was also beginning to understand how pixel based display was a great democratizer - all these screen images were made of the same substance. A Picasso painting, a DaVinci drawing, a deep space image form the
Hubble Telescope or an Ansel Adams photograph were certainly different objects in the real world but on the screen, they were just a collection of pixels. The playing field was leveled, the image content would be
judged on it's own aesthetic and against every other image that could be displayed. The eye would decide.

From the start, I wanted to give people something to think about - but not as a message or a lesson or a meaning. I think I lacked the confidence to articulate that early on. But it is there like the manipulation is as part of my whole approach. I want the viewer active to "look into the image" rather than just looking at the image.

I am not an equipment geek. If the device captures images without a flash, has a memory card I can read and a charged battery I'd probably use it. I don't need a perfect capture, I want to make a capture perfect.

I use Flickr to publish my images because Fotolog crapped out so many times it wasn't worth the aggravation anymore. Both Flickr and Fotolog are distribution points and provide a publication platform and an audience. I want an audience. Of course, this serves two masters because I can move easliy from presenter to an audience to being part of the audience.

At the point where I was searching for a way of working - first Fotolog and then Flickr gave me a daily production and publishing structure and a format to see a body of work developing.

It allows me to be prolific without purpose and organically find threads in the work. The dark side is that there is such a need to get the next image - almost an obligation. I realize this is a product of my own need for immediate gratification. I tend to ration the published images to one per day. The sheer volume of images posted on both of these services is a stark reminder of how insignificant any single image can be. It is quite intimidating.

I am always surprised by what people connect to in an individual image, what they are moved by. I am starting to sense a bond. It is not just that I said something nice about their picture or made them a contact
so they'll say something nice about mine. There is something we have in common, something they know and I know.

Why I wanted to take part in the NYC Exposition? I read Dylan's Chronicles earlier in the year and just saw Scorcese's "Don't look back" yesterday and "California Dreaming" earlier this week. Aside from their specific topics of Dylan and the Mammas and the Pappas, they documented the NY Folk scene in the early 60's. The creativity and mutual influences that so many of those artists had on each other strikes a similar chord to those of us who have watched each other's work over the last two years on Fotolog and Flickr. I see this as a
festival of those visual efforts and would feel I missed something important if I weren't participating. Also with some of my favorites are already participating I feel fortunate to have the honor of our work sitting
together.

Coming off three traditional exhibitions of my "Anytown" series, I look forward to presenting some work from a new collection in its original digital format.

Now, I want to share this essay, which was published recently about "Anytown" and may be of interest.

Mysteries of the Glance.

Ron Diorio’s imagery initially evokes qualities of the ‘Hopperesque’. These sparsely populated cityscapes, with their angular deployment of architectural detail in compositions like Cornerstone and Hustler club,
conjure urban nooks that reference directly the loneliness and faintly sinister atmosphere we have come to associate with Edward Hopper in paintings like Sunday (1926). Furthermore, a heavily voyeuristic quality Diorio has inscribed in images such as Ten thousand days, Lobby at night or Moving day, mobilises a dialectic of compassion and alienation that can be found in Hopper’s Office at Night (1940).

But comparison with a major figure of American Art, while no doubt flattering to Diorio, may also come too quickly, curtailing further appreciation of his images. One difference is that, while Hopper’s paintings are not exclusively urban in content, the significance of anything approaching rural iconography for Diorio – in Botanica or Cruising for example – actively denies access to a bucolic world beyond the horizon. However ironic such references may be in Hopper, their possibility remains part of the enunciation of his work. Not so for Diorio, who confesses to finding ‘green difficult to deal with’.

While there is a contemporary aspect to the costumes of the young men in Cruising, elsewhere Diorio renders historic markers ambiguous. In Widows walk for instance, nineteenth century fashion and architectural
references lend a timeless quality, while the figures that punctuate Cruising include a contemporary predatory note. As in Botanica, this implicates the viewer in social questions, which an artist like Hopper tends to eradicate in favour of the psychological. The figure emerging from the dry, leafless trees in Botanica evokes the stroll of a park ambler rather than the purposeful gait of a country dweller: his narrative and identity remain the subject of speculation rather than being indicated by his environment.

Despite this socio-urban tone, Diorio’s imagery is also evocative of quietly tragic moments, in which hunched figures are reduced to objects by the metropolis that oppresses them. Images like Lament on the death
of a Blackberry TM, Hustler club or Piccadilly show people suspended in a temporal hiatus, who appear to be either waiting for something to happen or contemplating something that has already befallen them. And we
wonder also whether it is more likely that they are doing both, since the syntax of personal narrative saturates their forms, as if they were characters in an ironic film noir.

But if these images evoke oppression, a lighter mood is also present in a variety of Diorio’s images. The mock-heroic light that falls in the bathetically titled Lament on the death of a Blackberry TM corresponds
to the sheer, childish exuberance of Puddle jump. And if the title of the latter evokes an innocence in the poetry of e e cummings, its falling, starry spangle of city lights owes as much to Whistler’s Nocturne
in Black and Gold: Falling Rocket (c.1874) as to the darkness of a Scorsese text. Alternatively the contemplation of a strange perspective in Yesterday’s empire has the effect of morphing compassionate markers of homelessness and alienation into a sinister figure of a Taliban-like spectre among the ruins of an anonymous ground zero. Or there is the theatrical surrealism of other images – like Learning to fly or Clouds fall for example – which refer more to Dali than Hopper, both of whom would no doubt have done more to lend significance to a facial expression of their lone protagonists.

From the facelessness of Diorio’s figures a further opposition emerges: far from obscuring a direct address to the viewer, the lack of a face makes their pose more essential. These postures articulate the complexity of interaction habitually adopted by city-dwellers, in the glance that avoids eye contact on the street. Thus, by presenting for closer scrutiny what is casually taken as sufficient in the glance, Diorio forces realisation of what is also deficient in the ‘data-gathering’ activity of a glance. And this returns us to the impenetrability of Dreiser’s “streets of wall-lined mysteries” referenced in the preface, that translate to the twenty-first century ‘Anytown’.

Dreiser introduces Caroline Meeber, the eighteen year old ‘Sister Carrie’ of his novel, as “possessed of a mind rudimentary in its power of observation and analysis”, so the quotation that introduces ‘Anytown’
functions as a manifesto for an urban ‘aesthetic of the glance’ that is also innocent. The strange mazes of Diorio’s ‘glances’ interrogate Dreiser’s “wall-lined mysteries”. Light on surface is made to symbolise the “vaguest conception” dwelling in the unconscious of Dreiser’s Carrie: the wall of divisive opacity in Outsiders; an easy resistance to human emotion in the walls of Moving day or Ten thousand days; and finally a
disturbing, robotic face with glowing eyes that seems to stare from beneath the surface at the left of the frame in Man ray. These are elements of the impressionist glances that comprise Carrie’s observation of
the city.

The merging of Theodore Dreiser’s 1908 text of urban confusion with conditions that pertain in the twenty-first century metropolis lends temporal resonance to these images, extending beyond content. We have been comparing digitally manipulated images with those of painters not simply because computer applications can render a painterly surface or prompt the pursuit of an ‘aesthetic of the glance’. As well as surfaces, their compositions have been manipulated, using a computer-aided program to affect addition and deletion of objects. In fact Diorio’s application of digital montage techniques resurrects a nineteenth century practice of combination printing, like those of Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) and Oscar G. Reijlander (1817-1875).

New media theorist, Lev Manovich, reminds us that editing or montage was a key twentieth century technique, creating fake realities in mainstream film and provoking conceptual aesthetics in avant-garde treatment of both moving and still images. In the 1980s computers began to extend the possibilities of montage by making it easier to combine disparate visual elements: in the art gallery, ‘copy-and-paste’ elements, in works by David Salle (see for example The Canfield Hatfield Portfolio) or Barbara Kruger for example, began to celebrate the resultant hard-edged boundaries of combined objects.

But it turns out that computers do more than simply expand the possibilities of combining elements from different sources: in fact they have led to a new paradigm, one which replaces montage with compositing as
the dominant aesthetic. The aim of montage was to create visual, stylistic, semantic and emotional dissonance through active juxtaposition of consciously disparate objects. Compositing, by contrast, blends these elements into a single whole to create a visual gestalt.

What Diorio’s work confirms is that a logic of the postmodern aesthetic of the 1980s has finally passed: his technique erases boundaries and rejects the montage aesthetic of juxtaposition in favour of a smoothly
continuous appeal to the eye. At the same time the inherent compositing of these images interrogates the conceptual integrity of their glanced fictions.

Norman Taylor
visualculture@visualculture.free-online.co.uk
Brooklyn. July, 2005.
Used by permission.
Copyright 2005 Norman Taylor
http://www.visualculture.free-online.co.uk/visualculture/

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