Monday, 7 January 2013

Metzker’s Composites


Chicago © Ray Metzker

Between 1964 and 1968, Ray Metzker made a group of extraordinary composited images. Each one is a grid of several dozen exposures of the same or similar scenes arranged in rows of overlapping frames. These works are complex and compel me to want to deconstruct them systematically- to understand how they were made, precisely, and to get at that peculiar order, that particular and meaningful sense of rhythm that is Metzker's, and that he expressed through the medium of these methodologies.

In 1959, while a graduate student at the Chicago Institute of Design, he made Chicago, a piece that foreshadows his Composites. In this image, people come and go on an underground stairwell lit by sunlight from above. One assumes that this grid, composed of twenty-five exposures, it is to be read like a book- from left to right, top to bottom. But the "last" two frames, closely observed, contradict that expectation. A woman and a girl with a balloon descend the stairs in each, but in reversed chronological order. Either they were walking backwards up the stairs, or, Metzker shot the last frame prior to the second to last one. In this work, as in his work to come, conventions have not been observed and one's expectations are continually disturbed.

In Composites: Comings and Goings, ca. 1966, the complexity increases. There is in this image a rapturous impossibility of knowing- because the exposures overlap, and by varying degrees- which person, or reflection, or shadow, belongs to which frame, or moment- which dislocated arm or hat or piece of dress belongs to which individual. Moment-specificity, the very thing that photography supposedly excels at "capturing," is blurred. The continuity of our idea of time- what we have come to expect from it, indeed to need from it- that it progresses linearly, steadily and infallibly from moment to chronologically distinct moment- is broken.

Composites: Comings and Goings, ca. 1966 © Ray Metzker

In Composites: Scaff Nut, Philadelphia, ca. 1966, Metzker's use of a scaffold serves to disguise the overlap between frames, more seamlessly blurring one moment into the next and causing dozens of them to seem as one. The scaffold fragments the composition into hundreds of geometrical units that relate to each other formally according to a sense of order that is complex. In this and other of Metzker works, I wonder whether it is order or chaos that I am looking at. Indeed, order looks a lot like chaos the deeper one looks. The effect is particularly acute because these are photographs, derived from fact it would seem, and analog, at that. Does the order that we detect come from Metzker, or does it come from chance? The ambiguity keeps me looking.

As the scaffold itself is fragmented and problematized in this image, so too, it seems, are the structures of time and identity, language and subjectivity. Is it chaos or order at the root of each of these? Chance or design? It is a strength of the work that it raises the question without suggesting the answer. Whatever we might think we know about that man with the hat, based on his appearance or facial expression or body language, our assumptions are challenged by the fact that his right half is a woman and his left leg is a scaffold. This creature appears simultaneously to walk towards me hesitantly and away from me with confidence. To whom do we attribute posture, gesture or appearance, when the physical boundaries and chronological relationships between people and things are unclear?

Metzker's insistent looking is everywhere in evidence, and this in turn compels me to look insistently. There is much to see in these prints, but as much or more has been withheld. The shadows, in particular, suggest details without revealing them fully. The feeling I get is that if I could only see the face in the shadow, or distinguish with certainty an object from a reflection, I would understand everything and everything would become clear. The withholding of information feels like an absence, a lack, and an obstruction. But if the images gave away more, they would only deceive that much more. These images deceive less and are more honest because they do not offer complete narratives or suggest at truths. Rather, and to their credit, they frustrate them.

Chris Engman (Foam Magazine #24/Talent)

The exhibition, The Photographs of Ray. K. Metzker and the Institute of Design, is on view at The Getty Center in Los Angeles through February 24, 2013.

20 comments:

  1. Our best online academic help experts talk about how to select and evaluate the right academic sources, which will help you clear all your academic-related doubts. Do my assignment by My Assignment Services has been trusted by millions of students worldwide for over a decade.

    ReplyDelete
  2. There is a reason why we have so much homework. go here for my thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. An outstanding Admission Essay Writing service provider ensures that all College Admission Essay Writing Services are capitulated to you on or before time. This ensures that there is enough time to make changes or adjustments on the Professional Custom Admission Essays.

    ReplyDelete
  4. thanks for sharing informative psot ...
    TVB NEWS For PC

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sociology Coursework Writing Services has become a significant challenge owing to the complexity of Sociology Assignment Writing Services and in other cases lack of time and knowledge needed to prepare Sociology Research Paper Writing Services.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sociology Coursework Writing Services has become a significant challenge owing to the complexity of Sociology Assignment Writing Services and in other cases lack of time and knowledge needed to prepare Sociology Research Paper Writing Services.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Online political science essay writing help services are very common nowadays since there are very many students seeking Political Science Writing Services and political science research paper writing services.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It is important for biology coursework writing service students to seek Biology Essay Writing Services from a reputable biology research paper service provider for their biology assignment writing services.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Among other courses, healthcare essay writing help online has become popular since students seek Healthcare Assignment Writing Services and healthcare research research paper writing services.

    ReplyDelete
  10. How our specialists help can compose your assignments is the suitable spot to discover answer to the pestering inquiry 'who can compose my assignment'. Our group of Ph.D. confirmed specialists can help you do assignments in a customized way by comprehension your expact necessities and satisfying college guidelines of composing assignments and articles. more- cheap assignment help

    ReplyDelete
  11. It is important for neurobiology coursework writing help seekers to find the best Neurobiology Writing Services from a reputable neurobiology research paper writing service provider for their custom neurobiology essay writing services.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Seeking psychology research writing services are very common nowadays since there are very many students in need of Psychology Coursework Writing Services and psychology assignment writing services.

    ReplyDelete
  13. It is important for business management assignment help seekers to find the best Business Management Writing Services from a reputable business management paper writing service provider for their custom business management essay services.

    ReplyDelete