vex, con, cave,
it has all fallen in on itself again
The mirror has been a tool for creating representations ever since the earliest camera obscura was developed. The traces of this history are contained in the process of film-based photography. The imprint of light and time onto negatives, and the subsequent process of chemical reversal can be thought of extending the logic of illusion that unfolds in a camera obscura.
In Mirrors FTP Dan Holdsworth utilises the motif of a diagonal incision, and through a rotation of one half of a photographic image, creates a kind of mirror effect. Cascading boulders and winding ravines begin at either end of each image, and appear to converge at the picture’s centre. Following the series Forms FTP, this series makes use of photographs taken at Crater Glacier in Washington, USA. But here, Holdsworth invites us to scrutinise this imagery in alternative ways, suggesting a collision between two lots of glacial mass in each frame.
The acronym ‘FTP’ of the series title refers to what is known to scientists and astronomers as ‘false topographic perception’. This has been cited as a defect of long-distance cartographic techniques and remote sensor imaging. It is said that the recording of the topographies of the Moon and of Mars may have been effected by such a problem. In certain areas, the process led aspects of the ground to be indistinguishable between concave or convex forms. This resulted in a failure to fully specify and classify mountainous and cavernous terrains. In turn, this caused a multiplicity of issues with astronomical expeditions: the photographic phenomenon has been a technical stumbling block ever since the topographic mapping of planetary landscapes began. Obviously Dan Holdsworth’s consideration of this phenomenon didn’t originate with anecdotes about such occurrences, and nor does he intended to only explore this estranged scientific delineation through its aesthetics effects. Instead the artist explores a re-configured model of its affect.
What we might call the sentiment of Mirrors FTP reveals itself when the entire series is encountered as a whole. This is a sentiment that raises questions around the empirical truths of photography, and how the mediation of photographic form in presenting a prior ‘reality’ complicates what that reality can be. What surfaces here is the action of viewing and viewing again, of being made to confront what we believed to be real and questioning it. Each work appears to have suspended a pair of competing ‘realities’ in its own pictorial space. In each ‘mirror’, a dualism appears; our preliminary gaze scouts for meaning, only for our hypotheses to be set into doubt. When we look again a second time, we can make exert greater pressure on the space, but are again unable to ultimately resolve the image into a coherent whole. We bounce between one and the other in a permanently perplexing binary. This dynamic persists indefinitely.
One consequence of such an inversion of the ‘flow’ of visual matter is that it can affect how viewers categorize particular details in an image. Whilst the ‘mirror-effect’ that the work conjures is created through a particular formal measure, we also must imaginatively construct it to make sense of our perceptual experience. The nineteenth-century French philosopher Milan de Biran coined the term “coenesthese” to express “one's immediate awareness of the presence of the body in perception”. Here, the fracturing of each photograph warrants a corporeal reading: a bodily reaction so that we grasp the looping rhythms that the cutting creates. The simple manoeuvre seems to make a sense of geological movement and pulsation tangible. Mirrors FTP is thus a dense series of undulating patterns that both protrude and recess, as if stone has been violently extruded by unimaginable forces. The very complexities of concave and convex forms are captured at the centre line of each plane.
It is clear that the artist’s diagonal cut in making Mirrors FTP is both playful, yet emphasises each photographic print’s objecthood and tactility. A simple rotation and incision afford a quite novel experience of space, and of what ‘the photographic’ can be. A cut is the simplest of disruptions to the photographic plane. It creates a composition that appears to fall inwards by splintering perspective. The rhythms of convex and concave geological strata are recomposed; pictorial space is stretched; realities are remade.