Frank Selby — some things never change
some things never change
Past: March 17 → May 5, 2012
For his second exhibition at the gallery Jeanrochdard, Frank Selby presents a new series of thirteen meticulous and obsessive works on paper. Drawn from press photography, between 2011 and 2012, Selby’s works depict scenes of past and contemporary conflicts. Much more than a political interpretation of these events, his work suggests a reflection on their assimilation through the circulation of images that document them.
Through his work, Frank Selby raises the idea that our interpretation of these photographs — which are the cornerstone of our understanding of these historical facts — is changing and becomes more distorted over time. The artist explores the interpretation and status of images by referring to the theory of sign relation, according to which any representation of a thing or idea implies its absence :
“In a way, the crisis is a signifier or a representation of the underlying disagreement. In that sense, the set of ideas is absent from the action, as any representation of a thing or idea implies its absence. Distancing us further from the ideas are the documentation, the discussion, the historicization and the mythologization of the crises. The possibility for any real understanding of the events is extremely faint. Every message is perverted from its inception in language and gains more distortion through each iteration and reproduction.”
Hazy and superimposed effects in the drawings further accentuate the inherent distance of any representation. These various methods of image manipulation also express the violence of these events, from the scenes of civil war which took place in October 1936 in the London suburb (bobbies, bobbies ), to the recent uprisings in Greece (teargas, teargas ), through May 1968 clashes in the streets of Paris, between protesters and police (light blue melee and riot in low light)
The exhibition’s title, SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE, evokes the idea that certain concepts remain a part of the cultural consciousness even as the culture changes and evolves. Certain themes, visual and conceptual, appear in different forms and throughout the drawings. For example, the policeman’s helmet appears in many of works, as a symbol of anonymity and totalization of the state that has remained consistent throughout the resounding political and historical changes of the last hundred years. The repetition of that form and its dihumanizing effect mirrors the crisis of meaning that arises from the documentation of events and the dissemination of this material. Similarly, teargas is a recurring motif throughout the exhibition, important for its blinding and obscuring effects and also for its malleability as a signifier, it can possess equal power in anybody’s hands. The notion of communism, in its many changing forms, also appears in several drawings: in bobbies, bobbies the officers in the right side of the drawing are clearing away barricades erected by communist counter-demonstrators to Oswald Mosley’s fascist march in London in 1936; and in people’s park, people’s park which is based upon the People’s Park protests of 1969 in Berkeley wherein young students seized a piece of city-owned land to create a community garden under the communist maxim that property is theft.
Through the re-examination of the archive, Selby questions the conventions and limitations of documentary photography. Selby himself rejects the authoritative nature of representation and questions via techniques of doubling and mirroring, boundaries between presence and absence, reality and simulation, history and myth.
Opening Saturday, March 17, 2012 5 PM → 9 PM