Olivia’s body of work is introduced by a short description that talks about the work in terms of three main ideas: experiments in observation, visualizing that which is not inherently visible, and modifying visual technology.
The work consists of five series:
The first includes four selected heat prints using thermal paper. The prints are 2”x3.5” and mounted on 6”x6” white mat board.
The second series includes three photographs taken with a modified pinhole camera. They are 4”x6”, printed on glossy photo paper and mounted directed to the wall with little spacing between the photographs. They are a variety of pinks, which is the first introduction of color we have seen in Olivia’s body of work so far. The third series includes five photographs taken with a digital camera that has had its infrared blocking filter removed and lens altered. They are 4”x6” and printed on glossy paper as well, and they sit directly under the modified pinhole photos. Even more colorful than the pinhole photographs, these images show grainy abstractions of color. Above the second and third series are print outs of a digital camera and a digram of a digital camera.
The fourth series consists of four 8.5”x11.5” digital scans of “breath captured on glass.” They are arranged in a 2x2 grid with little space between each image. The composition is mainly black with the captured breath registering as green near the center of each image. Above this series are two printouts about scanners.
The final series includes two 17.5”x13” images that sit one on top of the other. They are the largest images and the only ones with recognizable forms. These images are made up of five and fifteen composited minutes of a web cam. Similar to the breath images, the compositions are primarily black. However, in the composite series, human figures appear as ghostly white apparitions that pile up. The setting and pathways in the fifteen minute composite are more clearly defined as a result of more buildup of figures. Above the images is a printout of the Washington University in St. Louis campus with a pin marking the location of the webcam.
The presentation as a whole is clean, sharp, and neatly organized. Each series is accompanied by a small label to the left. While at first I was excited to see the print outs describing the technologies, I was disappointed when I realized they were the manual descriptions of the technologies and did not shed light on how Olivia had altered them. They also felt distracting placed above the work. Instead of seeing the images first we see the printouts, which are bigger than some of the work. I also think the presentation of the new series should receive more attention in terms of framing, matting, spacing- how they interact with and exist on the wall. It is very exciting to see so many explorations of Olivia’s concepts all at once. In the past we have only seen one series at a time. I have noticed that in the past, specifically with the thermal prints from last semester, Olivia often invests considerable amounts of time into exploring and perfecting the process she uses to make images. For this reason, I feel like the thermal prints focused more on process than concept. In this new body of work, process is clearly still very important and evident, but more avenues are explored. In the composite images, process and concept come together in a new and mysterious way. The webcam introduces ideas about surveillance, being watched, and tracking. Additionally, the concept of the composite introduces a different quality of time into the body of work. The other series focus on fixing and capturing a single moment while the composite layers moments together.
The longer I looked at Olivia’s work, the stronger I felt the work was asking me how. How do you make the invisible visible? How do you make the fleeting permanent? How do you capture an image? The language of the accompanied text, including words such as “experiments,” “observations,” and “specimen” sets up a scientific atmosphere to the work that is curious, less emotional and method based. The fact that everything is presented in a series is also important as it seems to work as groups of “evidences” that support and back up the experiments. I do not feel the emotional weight of trying to catch that which cannot be caught or the desperation of trying to hold onto intangible things. Instead, I see a presentation of moments which have been conquered and are now offered for my scrutiny and examination. The invisible has been seen, time has stood still, and it all begs the question, how?
Artists and Texts to Consider:
"The Body and the Archive," essay by Allen Sekula