Photo: Jennilee Marigomen
Evan Eye: The work shown in Mid-Double Daffy, currently exhibiting at Gallery 295, is a combination of both old and new works. What was behind the decision making process to ignore the chronology of production and instead integrate older work?
Dan Siney: I took a lot of pictures over the year leading up to the exhibition hoping I might shoot a whole new body of work. But it was obvious pretty early on that wasn’t going to happen. So I committed to using anything, regardless of genre, date; or how much/how recently/in what context I’d shown an image. I knew when I started the project that what I was trying to do would come together in the editing process. I wanted as much material to work with as possible, and different kinds of images too. Through editing I wanted to show that an image is inherently open – that context is projected, constructed, not exactly real, and not as deterministic to the life of an image as we make it. While shooting new work I let myself take photos I wouldn’t normally relate to my practice. It was fun and challenging. Over time I have whittled down the kind of pictures I take by disallowing certain things, and I wanted to open it back up again.
The forced relation that is activated with the diptych format that you have adopted for this exhibition places a focus on quality of image, composition, colour and shape rather than a direct subject. Would you say the work lies in the space between the images, and if so how?
I explored paired images because they can generate something new in relation; something independent of either one of them. Also, one image can reveal something present in the other, or in both, which would otherwise be diminished by our attention to context or subject. I tried to make diptychs that equalized the images’ representational and non-representational qualities, and I tried to make every diptych do it differently. By other “qualities” I mean first of all form, like you mentioned – colour, texture, tone, grain, composition, shape, etc. But there are also expressive qualities that arise from form, like the feeling of space versus crowdedness, or “feelings” generally – as in how the guy with the cut lip makes you feel – or even the “feeling” of a colour. And my attention was also on affects. In photography qualities and affects are often addressed by making abstract photographs. I wanted to look at photography for its common use, and to see these aspects more clearly within it.
Installation view of Mid-Double Daffy at Gallery 295. Photos by Jason Gowans
In particular, the relationship that is occurring between Cut Lip and You Might Have to Spend a Long Time in the Wrong Place to Know Where You Are is quite strong. The image of the cut lip, paired with the spiked fence in front of the rotting sculpture of an egg quickly forms a relationship brimming with violent potential, and that reactive relationship bridges a connection from each image to the other, simultaneously enhancing each image on their own.
The only word to describe that relation is “affect”. Or that relation arises from the affective dimension. That’s what I was trying to do. I wanted to make non-literal, non-narrative, non-linear relationships. I think what you said about the cut lip and the egg pairing, that is a perfect example of what you would call producing a “third term”. There is something happening in the relationship between the images, that isn’t located in either one of them. It’s an inarticulable quality, but it’s real. The feeling that the cut lip and the spikes on the fence in the wooden egg photo produce together is not definable, and that is the nature of an affective experience, and that is the experience I was trying to make happen with every diptych, and make happen differently every time.
There’s this really nice hovering quality about Mid-Double Daffy where the viewer can look at the work and through the way that it is presented can understand that there is a relationship happening between each set of images, but it’s not a prescriptive format where it feels like you have to come in and piece the puzzle together.
Yeah, I’m glad you see it that way. I mean I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of its effect. The show gives you nothing to hold on to. There are no narrative relationships, no representational relationships, no direct relationships at all between the diptychs.
In some of your photographs you have included manipulated elements, such as the man waving above the accident scene in Accident, or the shadow of the flying bird in Mattress. Is it necessary for the viewer to know that these elements are artificial, and is there any significance to their inclusion?
I made “Mattress” in art school and it’s been in the back of my mind ever since. So recently I started experimenting – altering images to make them unlikely but believable, and then showing them with unaltered ones, with no indication. I do it on instagram, which to me is a perfect venue for playing with the idea. I don’t think people need to know, and I was happy it wasn’t in the didactic panel. But I told people during production and at the opening because I don’t think it matters if viewers know either. Knowing changes the experience, which is interesting, but believing an unlikely picture is also interesting. And I like the possibility that people will find out on their own and become curious. It becomes again about an immediate encounter with the image. I included them in the show only because I thought they worked as images. But they only worked because of their uncanniness. They’re different from the others in that way.
Amongst the images in Mid-Double Daffy, you have included photographs of collage work. Do you feel that this element of mixed media engages with the overarching sense of collage to the body of work you’re exhibiting?
I made the collage works to bring the formal/expressive qualities out of their paired photographs, and vice versa. I hoped their inclusion would be another opening up point – a reason for the viewer to engage with the images and let go trying to contextualize the project. So sort of, but sort of the opposite. I didn’t mean for them to represent the diversity of the show, but to lend to it. As I said the whole idea was to generate possibility, by including many vector points, ideas and approaches, rather than providing resolution.
Photos: Dan Siney
What is the significance of the title Mid-Double Daffy?
The title is a joke, but mostly I just liked the way it sounds. A daffy is a skiing move where you go off a jump and one leg goes forward and one leg goes back. A double daffy would be where you would do that twice, so mid-double daffy would be where your legs are together. A photo of someone mid-double daffy would be pretty unimpressive.
For the past year you have worked alongside with Gallery 295 and The Lab to produce and now exhibit Mid-Double Daffy. How did this residency affect the amount of work you produced and how it was shown? Was your creative practice altered by this partnership?
Working with Jason Gowans and Mike Love was amazing. The support and expertise they provided over the year leading up to the exhibition gave me the flexibility to explore things in a totally new way. They worked so hard on my behalf and put a lot of faith in my process. I can’t say enough good things about those guys. I took a lot more photos than I would have otherwise, and I learned a lot. As a non-rich photographer depressing the shutter is always slightly painful. But I had the freedom to shoot a ton of crap. Any 35mm photographer will tell you that is a blessing.
Photos: Jennilee Marigomen
Mid Double Daffy is currently showing at Gallery 295 till October 5, 2013.