David Wlazlo

Jess Hood's 'Still Turning' catalogue essay.

I wrote a catalogue essay for Jess Hood's exhibition at Screen Space in 2011. Click the link below to view the PDF for a full colour version, with response by Jess, as well as the images we refer to in the texts.

The exhibition itself featured an automated slide-show (analogue transparencies in a carousel) of a hand extending a bunch of flowers from the bottom of the frame. Offering these flowers to the garden where the work was shot, each slide alternated focus on either the offering or the background as the camera panned in a circle

Image courtesy of Screen Space.

Full Catalogue from Screen Space:

Someone handed me a picture and said, "This is a picture of me when I was younger." Every picture of you is when you were younger. 
– Mitch Hedberg

Dear Jess,

I'm responding to the four photographs you gave me, rather than Still Turning directly, but I think that even in doing this, the displacement involved reflects what is going on in this piece. Offered up like hor d'oeuvres, these four images don't seem to constitute a work in themselves. They are either before a work or after, or otherwise outside the work which is Still Turning. These four title-less images constitute a form of grouping, and even though they are out of the sequence of Still Turning, a similar idea of temporality appears and structures them.  These four images suddenly interrelate, either through similar features or the lack thereof, in a way which provides ground for questioning the assurance which forms a sequence of the images in Still Turning. They are now four, and can be arranged in two groups of two.

Two of the images seem to break away from the others. These two feature a garden bed arranged with red flowers, and a slightly out of focus fountain at what could be the centre of the bed. These two images couple themselves to each other through their similar content: the horizon of red flowers, the figure of the fountain, the lawn. It's tempting to say that these images are of the same place, they were taken of the same thing, or even two views of the same thing. However this genealogy of the image is not at all clear, and questions that are never answered by the image alone come into focus: who took these images, and of what? Where and when were they taken? These questions are impossible to resolve, and the image needs to point outside of itself to ask them. Answers to these questions would give the clarity of focus to my interpretation, but they remain blurry.

The other two images are harder to group. One has a series of hanging planters in front of some green shade-cloth, and the other of these is a full-frame shot of leaves. The hanging planters carry the mark of seriality, of the sequence, which infects Still Turning, although here in these images the seriality is not activated, just passively dangling. The second image from this group is a full frame of leaves, with a blur across it. The leaves are in focus, and something seems to be hidden in plain sight in the centre, like a blurry figure. In your piece for exhibition, the hand held forth with a flower is in a gesture of a gift, but also in the gesture of the figure, both yours (in the form of your hand) and the figure against the ground. The focus is alternately set to the hand or the background, and each image overlaps with the previous and next in a lateral movement which is given depth through this oscillation of focus. Focus is here given to the background like a gift, which takes it, holds it, then returns it in another image. This movement activates each image as an individual moving toward another image, outside itself.

For me, the garden in your photographs precludes the questions of when, where, what and whom, questions which photography seems to ask. The garden is planted, grown, and its arrival is waited for. It points to the present but also to the future. The garden has a different kind of temporality than photography, but both temporalities have a quality of referring to the 'other than now'. What if these are images pointing to a garden of the future? Out of the blur, be it literal or metaphoric (and metaphor perhaps is a blur itself, or even a smudge) comes an orientation to the future, the becoming past of the image, which is always happening, and will always happen into the future.

See you soon,

David Wlazlo