This weekend, Transformer Station presents its first exhibition of 2016, Unfixed: The Fugitive Image. Unfixed features artists who explore the fleeting nature of life and reality through representational, photographic imagery designed to fade and deteriorate over time — sometimes even across the course of the exhibition. The exhibit opens Friday with a members preview from 5 to 6 p.m. Artists Françoise and Daniel Cartier will present a free public lecture at 6:30 p.m., and a reception will follow. Some of the images will fade into oblivion just hours after Friday's opening reception.
Scholars mark the invention of photography as the first time a representational image was "fixed" permanently to a light sensitive surface. With the invention of the camera, artists had the ability to document their reality faster, easier and cheaper than ever before. Art historians credit the invention of photography, as well as the rise of the middle class and open art market, as the beginning of Modern Art. As technology advanced over the past century, artists and scientists continued to develop archival materials and processes to preserve these memories in suspended animation, seemingly forever. Similarly, museums and conservationists have spent fortunes and countless hours developing new technology and techniques to preserve historically significant artwork. Despite these advances, however, the rise of SnapChat (and similar social media) has proven that some things are meant to be temporary.
As Heraclitus said, "The only thing that is constant is change." Life is fleeting, and the artists in Unfixed have chosen to embrace, and even celebrate, this temporary quality, utilizing this short-lived nature of images that are eventually destroyed by the same light that originally created them. This exhibition features objects and images that cause us to contemplate time, memory, entropy, our own mortality and the beauty of life's transitory nature.
"We are excited about the concept for this show which overturns some conventional wisdom about art and photography," says Transformer Station founder and Unfixed curator Fred Bidwell. "Most museums and collectors collect and conserve art with the goal, at least, to have it last forever. But some of the artists in Unfixed are making art which is designed to fade away. Most people see photography as a way to stop time and preserve a moment. But some of the photographers in Unfixed see the photograph itself as an object that evolves and shifts its meaning over time. This show will make you question the old quote, "Ars longa, vita brevis" (art is eternal, life is short), and see art as an experience that is about change and is, itself, constantly changing."
Unfixed includes work created with and without the use of a camera, in still imagery as well as video by national and international artists. Participating artists include Eric William Carroll, Françoise and Daniel Cartier, Phil Chang, Matthew Gamber, Brian Ganter, Dustin Grella, John Opera, Tom Persinger, Paul Shambroom and Luke Stettner.
Although these artists share a common interest in the ephemeral nature of photography, Unfixed showcases a diverse collection of work in a wide variety of media. Swiss artists Françoise and Daniel Cartier have created a special, site-specific installation. Matthew Gamber utilizes obsolete slide projectors to deconstruct the illusory nature of color photography.
Additionally, a group of Kodacolor snapshots from the collection of Peter Cohen have all turned pink due to faulty dye couplers. Phil Chang's unfixed photographs will disappear within hours of Friday's opening reception, while John Opera's use of natural, light-sensitive dyes ensures that his photographs will fade gradually over time.
Paul Shambroom explores what is lost and cannot by replaced through his photographs of lost pet flyers, washed out over time by the elements. Brian Ganter's interactive work reveals itself when held in the viewer's hand. Ganter's heat sensitive tintypes reveal haunting portraits of LGBT porn stars, all of whom have died of AIDS.
Unfixed includes many more engaging and thought-provoking works by highly accomplished artists. Overall, the exhibition challenges our current definition of photography, and expands our awareness and understanding of the materials, processes and maybe even ourselves as well. See for yourself this Friday, and plan another trip soon after, as this show is sure to change each time you see it.
Additionally, Transformer Station has scheduled a gallery talk with Matthew Gamber at 2 p.m. this Saturday. Later this year, Kate Albers will present her lecture, "The Ephemeral Photograph: From Salt Prints to Snapchat," at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 12. Finally, Tom Persinger will give a gallery talk and performance at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 3.
Unfixed remains on view at Transformer Station through April 3. Regular gallery hours are Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m., Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m., Fridays from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gallery is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Additional viewing hours are available by appointment.