Into the Nearness of Distance  
Multimedia Installation  
Dimensions variable

2014

The exhibition, Into the Nearness of Distance, was conceived of as a game between the participating artists (Summer Lee, Karen Ficke, and Adam Hathaway) as a means to explore the manifold difficulties of understanding and connecting with one’s cultural heritage and history.  The game that was devised is modeled after the parlor game Exquisite Corpse, where in a series of participants must create a work only knowing the end of the previous work.  This game was chosen because of its functional similarity to the manner in which one generation must build an understanding of all history, but must do so with only the input from one or two generations before it. 


For this exhibition, and image was chosen from the family records of Summer Lee without Lee’s knowledge of the image chosen.  This image was presented to Karen Ficke, who then made a short video as a means of representing the referenced image.  Ficke’s video was then presented to Adam Hathaway as a reference for his own video, but he was never presented with the original image from Lee’s family records. Likewise, Hathaway’s video was presented to Lee without any of the previous reference material.   Each video was then projected into the space on its own screen, and the viewers are presented with them in the order they flowed from the original reference image.


The experience of viewing these images is complicated by the addition of lamps which viewers are invited to take with them to view the works.  The gallery space is completely darkened to present the videos, but the videos have also been darkened so that they can only be perceived in the unoccupied gallery’s total darkness.  When a viewer enters the space with the lantern brightly lit, this illumination washes out the video from the screen, leaving only a white space, with a white screen, and disembodied sounds.  It is up to the viewer to understand that they must turn off their lamp and sacrifice their vision of the space in order to view the videos.  This relationship with the light of the lamp takes on another aspect as viewers finish watching the videos and come to the final work exhibited in the gallery space.


At the far end of the gallery, past the three videos, is a large photograph.  The photograph is all but impossible to see by the dim light of the video projections, but can be viewed comfortably in the bright lamp light.  The photograph is of the original reference image that was chosen from Lee’s family records; it is Lee’s grandmother’s United States certificate of naturalization.  This is not a normal photograph, however.  This particular print is an unfixed photograph, which means that it continues to develop in the presence of light.  The lamp light used to view this image is also slowly washing it from existence.  The more it is viewed, the faster it will disappear.


Together, these works create a powerful message about the drive to understand the past, and about the inherent paradox we encounter when we search for truth.