Images courtesy of Clare Strand
Getting Better and Worse at the Same Time showcases new work by British artist Clare Strand. Known for her unconventional and subversive use of the photographic medium, Strand’s work studies the ordinary while revealing numerous layers of complexity. Taking inspiration from forensic images and instruction manuals she employs photography as an exploratory tool rather than a quest for the real. In between evidential material and Surrealist experiment, the artist’s work examines the very substance of the image: “Scrutiny of a photographic vocabulary” is at the heart of her work.
Employing kinetic machines, Getting Better and Worse at the Same Time defies the traditional rules of the photographic exhibition. It investigates the quality of image degradation through repetition and use within a medium usually considered for its preciousness and precision. For example, The Happenstance Generator is a large Perspex chamber with hidden fans that randomly emits vernacular images. In a similar vein, The Entropy Pendulum fascinates the spectator as an abrasive metal arm swings over the photographic prints, which, one after the other, will be partly erased, before being framed and hung onto the gallery wall. Control in Motion, a revisited type of Rolodex, tirelessly rotates to unveil the 100 pages of gradual tones of black and whites, slowly and imperceptibly degrading. Viewed through a peephole, the film Material captures the movement of domestic dust floating towards and away from our gaze, untouched.
The decaying nature of the photograph becomes the show’s abiding concern, the exhibition equally retains an authority as it develops independently from the artist’s decisions. In a moment of retreat Strand returns power to the medium thereby allowing time, chance, mechanics, or natural elements to decide the material’s fate, getting better and worse, while unconsciously revealing its intangible strength.
Focused on the shallowness of the everyday deluge of imagery, the artist reminds us of the perishable object and archival moment captured in a photograph, referencing society’s evolution and contemporary consumption. Succumbing to chance, the images endlessly change, being carefully damaged, yet remaining perpetually imprisoned within their fabricated gymnastics.
They are the victims of their destructive process, like specimens of a frantic experiment surviving the absurd dynamics of their random mechanical exploitation. Here photography is celebrated as the medium of erosion. Made for deterioration, and diverted from its frames, it is unexpectedly submitted to uncertainty in order to reveal both its limits and unexplored possibilities.
Céline Bodin is a French photographer. After studying literature and architecture, she graduated from a photography BA at Gobelins, L’école de l’image in Paris. In 2013 she completed a Photography MA at the London College of Communication. As well as regularly writing about photography, her personal practice explores themes of identity, gender, and the metaphysical frustration of the medium in representation.