UNTITLED (SECOND TOURIST PHOTOGRAPH PROJECT)
28 July - 14 August 2010
Julian White’s Untitled (second tourist photograph project) is formed from a simple proposition – to show every photograph the artist has taken while traveling outside of Australia. In form this amounts to 7086 photographs from nine countries, which are stitched into a 20 minute video, each flicking past chronologically and at high speed.
The project is based on a contradiction that many artists have experimented with, that constraints can be used as a creative tool. Here White has taken a constructive rather than reductive approach to his work. Rather than editing down his photographs he has refused the role of editor (or artist or curator) in favour of allowing all works to sit equally in the series. So, though the subjects of his shots are geographically, symbolically and aesthetically varied, encompassing such subjects as ossuaries, landscapes, hotel rooms and cats, they are reduced to equivalence in the video. Through this process some of the most extraordinary things are rendered commonplace and the opposite is also true, ordinary space becomes tourist space. The images vacillate between feeling generic or familiar and personal due to the similarity to tourist photos any of us might take.
With only a fraction of second to rest on each photograph, the relentless bombardment of imagery is somewhat alienating. People become anonymous and places blend, evoking the excess of information that characterizes our age, urban dislocation and resultant feelings of ennui and lonliness. The occasional shock of a church or tomb functions as an (unintentional) memento mori, briefly jolting the viewer from the mundanity of the stream of images.
With time the work becomes a viewing exercise for the audience. When the artist steps back from dictating hierarchy or narrative within the work, rejecting the roles of collating and privileging certain imagery, the tendency of the viewer is to step forward and fill the void. Each viewer will seize on different ‘hero shots’, attempt to hold them and form their own narrative through the series. For me, I focused first on what I recognized as places I’d been or knew (was that Oscar Wilde’s grave?) and then on extrapolating from the scraps of personal information available – that the girlfriend is more often the subject than the artist, that he shows affection on camera, putting his arm around her shoulders but she is more shy. I also looked for the moments of pace change, where a series of images at the same place inadvertently come to resemble stop motion animation, or where the pace and terrain of a city dictate the pace of the photographs, calm even horizons in gardens and landscapes, frenetic changes of perspective in cities.
More obviously, the work also speaks of the way we travel, amassing experiences and checklisting sites like milestones. Anyone on long overseas holidays will be familiar with museum fatigue, exhaustion with tourism and the way in which the most extraordinary foreign places can became frankly boring at the end of a long day. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes a hot coffee is as important as a basilica.
Daine Singer - 2010