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Archetype Drift: New Methods of Photographic Making

Located in a lofty warehouse space on West Hubbard, Johalla Projects seeks to collaborate with curators and artists interested in pushing boundaries. What Filter Photo set out to do with their most current juried exhibition is push the boundaries of photography, and it seems almost inaccurate to call Archetype Drift a photography exhibition. Presented by the folks behind the annual Filter Photo Festival and curated by Chicago photographer, artist, and curator, Jason Lazarus, Archetype Drift is an exhibition about photography, and one that is mostly defined by concept over art form. The show’s statement makes it clear that it aims to address the act of photography itself by asking, “What happens when the medium gets in the way of the most important narratives? Archetype Drift is … a call for risk taking, chance operations, relabeling, and letting go of the comfortable.  It is in itself an experiment and a (momentary) mirror.”

With 47 artists in a small exhibition, the theme is also about over-saturation.  The pieces in the exhibition are hung salon style, and though Lazarus admitted that he didn’t set out to do that from the beginning, he says, “It’s a great metaphor for what it means to be a young image maker right now: your work is likely to get drowned out by everything else happening, not just the artist hanging next to you, beside you, or below you. In a way, it’s a great metaphor for the digital clutter that we exist in all the time.” (Read Filter’s interview with Lazarus here.)

Archetype Drift installation at Johalla Projects. West Town, Chicago. 2013. (Image credit: Brooke Herbert Hayes)

Of the exhibition’s forty-seven artists, about fifty percent are from Chicago.  There are traditional prints, animated gifs, videos, and even installations. There is a compelling site-specific piece by Jason Judd of a horizon line that is cut and installed along the top of the pieces on one wall.  Horizon Line becomes about iterations of this same horizon but is also about how it interacts with the other pieces.  Jeremiah Chiu’s video of a camera being repeatedly tossed in the air pays homage to John Baldessari’s Throwing four balls in the air to get a square, and like the rest of the show, is not only concerned with the conceptual but also with not taking photography too seriously.  In Lauren Edward’s piece, Tomb (Palindrome), her photograph becomes a reflection of itself, installed in a corner with a metal mirror. In the end, the show lets you leave with something, literally—a takeaway by Jessica Harvey printed on newsprint, containing an image of a rock that reads, “PROOF I EXIST.”

James Pepper Kelly, Filter’s Executive Producer, says the exhibition examines “how to generate photographs that still have meaning in today’s over-saturated image culture—how do you make something that really matters and is still compelling? And how do you challenge traditional modes of photographic making?”

“Tomb (Palindrome),” Lauren Edwards

When one of the pieces (the representational image used in promoting the show) arrived broken to the gallery a few days before the exhibition opened, instead of scrambling to get it reframed and hung in time, Lazarus and the Filter crew decided to leave the piece broken, in its box, lying on the floor in the center of the exhibition, as a kind of installation. This is D.E. Todd’s piece, Nikon SLR_0125.tif (seen above) , and from the beginning, the image itself was kind of metaphoric.  It’s a still from a video of a Nikon camera being blown up. The resulting piece is astronomical in imagery—a black background with what appears to be distant stars and a space probe or satellite being blown up.  The fact that the piece arrived in terrible shape was what Kelly called “a happy accident.” When Lazarus came to lay out the show, they decided to leave the broken piece in its box on a platform in the middle of the exhibition space, an idea that Todd decided to go along with. In his statement, Todd summarizes what the exhibition seems to be going after: that “the medium has become the subject.”

Archetype Drift is up through March 23, by appointment. There is a roundtable discussion led by Jason Lazarus with some of the Chicago-based artists on March 21 at 5:30. Johalla Projects is located at 1821 W Hubbard, Suite 209.

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