Double Blind Study 64
gelatin silver print on archival paper
Edition of 3 + AP
76.2 x 101.6 cm, 30 x 40 in
Artists statement: Double Blind Studies
Double Blind Studies (2012-ongoing) is a suite of gelatin silver print photographs created from drawings around marine fauna observed in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Deep Horizon (BP) oil spill in 2010. Rorschach-like gelatin silver prints of sections of my drawings, these photographs call into question perception and the creative act itself. As an afterimage of the digitally manipulated shot, the digital negative is printed by hand, analogically, as positive’ prints on archival photo paper, via gelatin silver processing.
Following the scientific 'double blind study', I put drawings into a testing space of photography. Borrowing from the nomenclature of clinical trials, in which each of two set of test subjects is ‘kept in the dark’ about the other, the studies evoke a police line up— or a concrete scene of pinned specimens on the wall. Push pins are visible. A forensic atmosphere shadows sensations of architectural ornament, marine bioforms, and the drawing shed itself, a crime scene?
I shot video for six days on board a marine biology research voyage in the Gulf of Mexico, after the BP oil spill, in 2010. Profuse crustaceans and rarely-seen bioluminescent fish came up at night from great depths, into the blinding white light on board ship. Double Blind Studies evolved out of drawings, after the video, of the capture, triage and release of these undersea taxa. Surfaces shimmer with in an effect like soft light on skin or still water. The prints hover at an infra-thin plane between drawing and photography. In this respect, they recall the experiments of Henry Fox Talbot in the nineteenth century, as the ‘double blind’ asserts dynamic exchange between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ as in a chasmic relation, each facing each.The question of touch— is the photograph a drawing, is the drawing a photograph? is this a series of Braille-like messages delivered through a semi-permeable membrane? Who is blind to whom?
'The insightful dialogic, rather than dialectic, structure of McPhee’s artistic practice seems to corroborate Georges Didi-Huberman’s assertion in Confronting Images that “to resemble no longer means, then, a settled state, but a process, an active figuration that, little by little, or all of a sudden, makes two elements touch that previously were separated (or separated according to the order of discourse).” Even the mediums with which McPhee works refuse, under her direction, to sit still. By drawing on top of painting, she explicitly surfaces the linear scaffolding that more typically serves as the eradicated and inaccessible unconscious of the painted image. In her Double Blind series, she photographs previous drawings, digitally butterflying and displaying them for forensic inspection via lush silver gelatin prints. Already existing at a remove from themselves, these Rorschach blots are simultaneously full and empty of symbolic content, glutted and gutted, such that the viewer striving to ‘read’ them is left doubly-blind. If anything, the bilateral symmetry implies early, but also alien, forms of organic life, perhaps alluding to the monstrous and alien organisms that are always already present within, and as part of, the human body, whether as digestive bacteria or reptilian brains. In this alien dream-work, the box of representation is smashed open. As Didi-Huberman continues, “all contrasts and all differences will be crystallized in the substance of a single image, whereas the same substance will ruin all philosophical quiddity in the splitting up of its subject. Such are the disconcerting poetics of dreams: time is overthrown in them, rent, and logic along with it. Not only do consequences anticipate their causes, they are their causes – and their negation.” - James MacDevitt, "Pattern Discognition," from the forthcoming Christina McPhee: A Commonplace Book, Punctum Books, 2017.