Michelle Blade and Hillary Wiedemann: A Willing Transfer of Belief at Johansson Projects
In “A Willing Transfer of Belief” at Johansson Projects, Michelle Blade and Hillary Wiedemann present works that investigate the intangibility of being and light. With distinct approaches, Blade offers witty paintings and sculptures that probe the mind/body split, while Wiedemann uses video as a mediated veil to observe light. Both Blade and Wiedemann’s works possess a charming ease while pursuing complex and absurdist logic to reimagine vision and media.
With an engaging ambiguity, Blade’s The Obvious Illusion (2012) depicts either a figure shrouded in a white sheet with its hands held up in a ghoulish gesture or a cloaked three-headed monstrosity. The acrylic on mylar piece hangs on a wooden dowel and floats in the gallery just as a ghost might. Through her title, Blade keenly addresses the illusions she pursues as a painter and the goofy futility of the ghost fashioned out of a bed sheet. Coyly, Blade suggests a number of possible “illusions” to which she may be alluding to as The Obvious Illusion.
Complimenting The Obvious Illusion, in Blade’s The Marriage Between Necessity and Curiosity (2013) she depicts two pairs of folded hands inside black eye-like voids that resemble holes cut from a bed sheet ghost costume. Like stereoscopy, which uses the parallax error between our two eyes to establish depth perception, Blade’s duplicate pairs of hands are painted from a slightly shifted perspective. However, because stereoscopy is a neurological function and ghosts presumably lack brains, in Blade’s image from the ghost’s perspective there is no three-dimensional synthesis. Blade continues her absurdist line of reasoning in The Marriage Between Necessity and Curiosity by positing the mother of invention with the father of creativity as a familial unit in the title. Beneath Blade’s playful sensibility, she alludes to cognitive activity, be it invention or creativity, as an internal phenomenon.
In contrast, Wiedemann uses media to address the ephemeral and captivating qualities of sunlight. For Possessing the Visible (2013), Wiedemann aimed her video camera directly into the sun during the equinox to record the brightest light on the shortest day of the year. The extreme sunlight interrupts the video camera’s ability to calibrate light, causing it to repeatedly refocus. The resulting video fluctuates between being haloed and blown out to being a more convention representation of the sun. Additionally, Wiedemann’s video features moments when the lens’ bulging circular frame and reflections are clearly visible, which reasserts her camera as a mediated vantage point.
As an additional level of reproduction, for Improbable Sunset (2013) Wiedemann projected and re-videotaped Possessing the Visible in her studio. In this second version fluctuating red, green, and blue (RGB) horizontal bands streak across the image of the sun. Because these interfacing technologies have opposing functions—digital projectors project RGB channels to be seen by the human eye while cameras capture and encode RBG information for digital storage—they interrupt the camera’s automatic color calibration. The horizontal bands are a result of the video camera attempting to sort out the artificially projected video, as opposed to the physical world which it was designed to capture. By exploiting the way that technology is designed to deal with specific parameters (like color and light), Wiedemann’s redundancy moves the copy further away from the original.
With two very different approaches, Blade and Wiedemann smartly explore the limitations and attributes of their own mediums. While Blade employs the imaginative possibilities that painting allows for, she also acknowledge the illusions she construct. Contrasting, Wiedemann’s explores the indexical quality of digital video, but creates situations that cause it to run afoul. Blade and Wiedemann’s word play and re-purposing of technology create internal systems of fuzzy logic to explore the shifting boundaries of reality as an internal psychological state of mediated experience.
Michelle Blade and Hillary Wiedemann: A Willing Transfer of Belief is on view at Johansson Projects in San Francisco, CA until May 18, 2013.
Images courtesy of the artists and Johansson Projects.