Artist Presentation
Antoinette La Farge

 

 

Synopsis by Julia Clinker

 

 

Antoinette La Farge presented herself as an artist who has rejected traditional views on photography as a pure medium. In her presentation she projected her work in chronological order, from her first expressionistic works to her latest Internet pieces.

In an early body of work La Farge manipulated both negative and print to reject the notion of photography as a tool for objective observation. She layered Inda ink over her photographs in reference to 19th century views on painting and photography. By scratching into the negatives she destroyed the idea of the negative’s integrity. To quote La Farge, The more dissatisfied I got with photography as a pure medium, the more interested I got in distorting the image.

La Farge referred to the second body of work presented as ‘false color photography’ in which she transformed the mountains of the Sierra Nevada’s into ‘lunar landscapes’ by distorting colors and points of gravity in the images. La Farge used a highly artificial color palette to break the rules of traditional color theory. This was motivated by her disinterest in discussions of photography that centered on the aesthetics of color and form. She developed a method of printing these images where she sandwiched altered negatives and projected light through them in order to obliterate any sense of traditional purity in the images.

La Farge’s appetite for expression in the handling of the photographic medium led her to her third body of work where she constructed collages that combined photographs, drawings, paintings, printmaking, and etching. Rather than accept the label of ‘mixed media’ on her work, La Farge wanted her audience to recognize that her collages represented an interpenetrating world of media. She referred to herself as a chameleon when it comes to media and rejects any classification of her work in that way.

La Farge began another chapter of her career under the auspices of the Museum of Forgery. Here she carried the concerns addressed in her earlier work further by attempting to address social issues of reality and reproduction in art. In a work titled Solstice 1, La Farge invited several artists to contribute works of text and drawings to be bound in a notebook and distributed randomly to people. She then ripped several pages from the book, wrapped them in a semi-archival way and buried them in the ground. La Farge photographed and mapped the locations of the burial sites and compiled the information into a notebook titled Solstice 2. La Farge tried to create a kind of informal time capsule or treasure map of sorts, and at the same time address the notion of the treasured art-piece.

In all of the work presented, La Farge attempted to address issues of posterity in art making, and to shatter the barriers of traditional confines of the photographic medium. La Farge’s methods and inquiries offer alternatives for image-makers who don’t want to be classified or limited by their medium. La Farge’s most recent work explores the Internet as a domain where she can construct worlds without boundaries. La Farge combines her desire to create a sense of fantasy with her deep connection to language in virtual theater pieces that are performed on the Internet in a virtual space called a MOO.

These are text-based worlds in which La Farge creates scenarios for actors to use as a guideline for improvisation on-line. As in La Farge’s earlier work, her primary concern in these pieces is to create events that loosely resemble familiar reality but follow their own innate logic, somewhat as dreams do. An excerpt from a scene concerning the presidential election of 1996 illustrates the satirical nature of her work.

The dead are not the real majority

Not according to the latest poll

Are you sure about that

Yes

Statistically correct. It’s a given fact.

It also serves to show the psychologically strange space La Farge has created because it is unclear who is speaking.

In the end, La Farge considers her virtual plays as works of art that incorporate many facets of the imagination and the intellect. Combining text, performance, language, and fantasy, La Farge creates works in a world that offers us an alternative space to dream, question, search, alter, and exist.

 

 

Analysis by Are Flagan

 

 

Antoinette La Farge practices the art of conversation. In her many projects exploring the borderline between what might be perceived of as imaginary or real, a necessary link between form and content, or an appearance and its meaning, comes under scrutiny as these polarities mingle and merge in various works. What emerges is a layered conversation of matter and metaphysics, and at this philosophical limit of possibility, a discourse traverses the strata of dialogues and dialectics to practice an extensive form of rhetoric. At these intersections of conversation, La Farge introduces her emphasis on the performative aspects of communication.

The art of conversation used to be an acquired skill, and the ability to converse well within certain circles was the desirable mark of an exemplary education and its corresponding social position. Verbal exchange in these circumstances was the echo of learned and conditioned responses; perhaps more an affirmation of what was known and considered proper, than an experience seeking to expand on the social etiquette of finishing school. These hopelessly constrained efforts at meaningful interaction have seemingly disappeared with altered demands in the social sphere, but within the vocabularies of our celebrated multiplicity, where the morphological materiality of many voices inhabits numerous points of view, the familiar territory of conversation as communication might still be considered an integral part of making sense.

When Antoinette La Farge opens up the MUD (Multiple User Domain) to interaction, she initiates a form of conversation to reform communication. Performance pieces of small talk in text have been scripted and distributed to each participant prior to the event, and the role of individual identity has consequently been delineated along with the perception of others belonging to the same cast — the stage is literally set. Once chat commences according to the guidelines, conversation flows without the awkwardness of silence or an inappropriate remark, and communication functions with its familiar and natural ease. The signature of each event is already contextualized in correct responses — a script has been disseminated and is gathered in this play of syntactic and semantic rules evolving according to the plan. This game between partners in the MUD evolves after the pattern until established dialogue is interspersed with other textual elements from a variety of external sources. Between these lines, the proper is found out of context, and due to these additions, the mechanical reiteration of prepared aphorisms is supplemented by acts of improvisation. Preformed conversation is suddenly transformed in order to perform as communication.

Once the rigidity of a system, operating as the determination of an elusive expectancy, has been allowed a level of flexibility, nothing might seem to separate theory from a lapse into gossip. But the crucial words of Antoinette La Farge’s work is a juncture of medium and message at the communicative event where signature meets context in conversation, only to pass and part again. Her persistent insistence on method, as the facility of meaning, avoids both absolute closure or complete nonsense by focusing on the interaction of opposites in a continuing performance, which remains the talking point. Within the technology driven media employed to make this point, in this instance, the notion of interaction describes a desire to expand on connections between interfaces, open up for dialogue and discourse in the cybernetic universe on our threshold, and converse across the boundaries of human and machine. Another borderline, repeated from the beginning and once more in a figure of speech, poses the challenge of engagement, and a consultation with previous conversations might resolve what emerges from communication in this developing world. To interact relies upon the approved parameters of previous constraints, but do not the improvised performances in Antoinette La Farge’s MUD remind us not to forget that script is never scripture?