Centre des arts actuels Skol, space 341
The People In This Picture Are Standing On All That Remained of a Handsome Residence
10 September – 10 October 2015
Christina Battle’s piece, Skol’s feature for ‘La Mois de le Photo’, “The people in this picture are standing still on all that remained of a handsome residence” uses glitching and datamoshing to transform videos of a tornado in Edmonton into colorful abstractions. Since the images occur on several screens simultaneously, the viewer feels placed within the disaster scene but in a warped, almost dreamlike way. In her interview for ‘Mois de la Photo’, Battle, a Canadian who lives in works in the United States, mentions that only 5% of Americans have actually witnessed a natural disaster whereas the internet and the proliferation of ‘disaster porn’ creates the illusion that we know what one looks like.
When Battle manipulates these images of a disaster, they immediately register to the viewer as intentionally abstracted, altered or somehow ‘wrong’ in their depiction of a disaster. However, it is this very sensation that Battle is trying to invoke in order to cause the viewer to question his or her knowledge of what a natural disaster is ‘supposed’ to look like.
Thus, Battle’s work speaks to the post-photographic condition in that it questions photography as a memetic mode of representation. Since the photograph is often considered an objective and therefore somehow more ‘accurate’ depiction of reality, Battle’s deliberate manipulation of this convention is simultaneously unsettling and fascinating.
The title of the work also speaks to the installation itself in addition to the subject it is depicting. The viewers are standing in the midst of the proverbial wreckage, among the remains of something of unknown. Since photographic media and technology have been used to capture and disseminate these images, it is both ironic and yet appropriate that these same technologies can be used to warp these images and, in turn, our perception of what they seek to represent.
Battle’s work presents us with more than a simple questioning of ‘disaster porn’ in terms of why we are fascinated by it, but what it actually is in the first place. Her work is calling us to question the reality of these images of disasters by presenting us with a visual version of a disaster narrative that has so clearly been deliberately tampered with. Furthermore, in this way, she gives us a sense of the artist’s hand, a human touch in medium that can sometimes feel almost clinical in its disembodied depersonalization.