David Wlazlo

Tamsin Green - 'to and from the end of the world' - Conical

This is a review I wrote of Tamsin Green's 2010 exhibition at Conical, Fitzroy. Among other things, what struck me about her work was the way it was performative while remaining un-spectacular and understated about this performativity.

Tamsin Green

To and from the end of the world

Conical Fitzroy

27 February – 27 March 2010


Tamsin Green

To the end of the world 2010

medium format photograph, Dibond mount

30.5 x 30.5 cm

image courtesy the artist


Tamsin Green

From the end of the world 2010

medium format photograph, Dibond mount

Image courtesy the artist

The work by Tamsin Green at Conical in March, entitled to and from the end of the world, features two type-C photographs, in identical square format, facing each other across the room. The photographs are quite atmospheric: one shows a nocturnal coastline from the sea, with searching torchlight coming from the bottom of the frame, and the other shows a light out on the dark water as seen from the beach.

These images at first appear as atmospheric photographs. However, the acknowledgement of a kayak hire company in the artist’s statement points at something closer to the documentation of a performance. How were these images achieved? To take photographs 'to and from the end of the world' seems an act of containment, of bracketing the 'end' and the 'world' in question. Is Green presenting images of the limits of a particular coastal world, or documenting an attempt to map the horizon using light? A tension operates here between the atmospheric and the documentary, engaged with light as a signal of truth. Documentary photography's relation to light as truth is brought into question, and the fact that this is played out against the sea at night is no accident. If truth has a historical metaphor in light and reason, then the converse to this is darkness, the irrational, and, via a historical connection between the moon, the tides and the menstrual cycle, the feminine emerges among this problematic discourse. Green seems to be connecting the way light, gender and the sea are constructed symbolically in relation to photography, documentation and truth. For documentation to appear as such, then light must appear also, and along with it this naturalizing discourse of oppositions.

The procedure of these images, to signal from the horizon, can only be performed as a kind of necessary failure, for were it to succeed the signal would not be received by the camera on shore. Green's work spins around the axes of the document as truth, the light as truth, the document as its own horizon, and the horizon as true limit of the true. If we take Green's photographs literally, as a documentation of necessary failure, the performance to signal from the horizon fails in order for the documentation to succeed. The association of impossibility with failure shows that this necessary failure is only for a discourse that demands logical coherence. This is not to suggest that this work is somehow 'other' to the discourse of the horizon, but rather stresses the contingency of this discourse upon its remainders: that is to say, the atmospheric comes out of the document, and the light doesn't have to travel very far to lose its symbolic power. Green's work on the impossible shows that for every horizon, for every 'light within' engendering perspective, there is a remainder that disappears.