La Conchita mon amour (2005-2008)
LA CONCHITA MON AMOUR : press release for Sara Tecchia Gallery / New York 2006
“With this new body of work, McPhee continues her exploration of the synchronicity between natural disaster and human trauma at the tiny coastal town of La Conchita, California. This community, just north of Los Angeles on Highway 1/101, is built on an ancient mudslide and has been subject to periodic massive debris flows. The most recent, in 2005, took ten lives and left a huge mass of fallen mountain on the town. Yet the inhabitants must continue to stay, despite the inevitable recurrence of this threat. La Conchita remaps the problematic of living with disaster in California in immediate, raw terms, since the trauma is always already here. Global warming appears to be accelerating the danger. Without resources for healing or leaving, La Conchita lives on in abandonment. The plight of residents at La Conchita is a microcosm of the conditions of bare life in post-911 material culture.
For the past year at one month intervals, McPhee has shot medium format and digital photographs of the disaster’s vernacular shrines to the dead on the site of the mudslide—chain link barriers a rubble of mud, destroyed house frames, roofs, retaining walls, play yards, swing sets and crushed cars. She has recorded video and audio in these site visits at quiet times of the day, developing a time based record of the cyclical power of the tides, the freeway sounds, and the voices of residents who would sometimes guide her into precarious parts of the ruin. Her working methods perform an intimate and subtle connection to the architectural conditions of the site, which also give rise to graphite and ink study drawings of the threat of debris flow. The drawings are repetitive and performative as if to retrace the edges of that which cannot be visualized. Given the impossibility of representing trauma, McPhee’s images reach through obsessive layers of visual data towards an integration beyond the material facts of the site. The large scale images that result from this process are topologies of absence and recovery. Like the prayer flags they record, the images are performance gestures, signaling an attempt to remain in touch with hope and life in the face of indifference.
Videos for the exhibition were produced in part through a residency at the Experimental Television Center, New York, in November 2005. A related interactive narrative on La Conchita will be featured online at New York’s Turbulence.org beginning in early November.
Artist and theorist G.H. Hovagimyan has stated that McPhee has updated the work of Ana Mendieta into the realm of new media. ‘I love what Christina McPhee does,” he states. “She uses digital tools and scientific data to get to a deeply human emotion.’ ”
(press release, Sara Tecchia Gallery, New York, October 2006)
photography, photomontage, cinematic and installation video, and drawing
Twelve large scale photomontage prints, framed; seven drawings; one 3 channel/20 screen video commission / one single channel video installation (loop) / one cinematic video short
Sara Tecchia Roma New York, New York, October-December 2006
Thresholds Artspace / Thresholds New Media Commission / Perth, Scotland 2008
Bibliography: Sharon Lin Tay, "Undisclosed Recipients," in Studies in Documentary Film (2008); and "Vignettes of a New Feminist Politique: Gisela Sanders Alcantara, Guo Xiaolu, Christina McPhee, Liz Miller", in
Tay, Women on the Edge: Twelve Political Film Practices, London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2009.
Created with support from a residency at the Experimental Television Center, New York, 2005, a single channel version of the video project "La Conchita N=Amour" is included in the ETC's Experimental Television Center 1969-2009, a DVD compilation distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix.
La Conchita mon amour, catalog, exhibition at Sara Tecchia Roma New York, 2006