Walead Beshty’s second solo show with Gaelerie Roldophe Janssen is entitled Diapositives, after the medium he used to construct his images. Since 2006 Beshty’s work has been comprised of experimental photography whereby he explores different effects on underdeveloped film.
Diapositives is an installation that takes the form of what appears to be a futuristic office space. Desks and other seemingly aesthetic furnishings are replaced with copper surrogates that have had the developed film experiments printed on them; their purpose however is not to serve as a visual element, but to be a fully-functioning room component within the space (i.e. a table that is fit for purpose). The interaction with the visitors and the works within the exhibit is implicit to the work itself – in fact Beshty does not acknowledge his works as art forms until this interaction takes place.
Beshty was born in 1976 in London and currently resides in Los Angeles. His experiments with film began accidentally after undeveloped negatives were exposed to the heightened radiation of a high security, post 9/11, airport x-ray machine. The effects were intriguing, leaving behind almost marbleized markings with strange lines and subtle colors. These markings, which convey the method of construction, are politically and socially relevant; the aesthetic is emblematic of the state of society after experiencing life-altering events.
A circular ‘sun-like’ copper plate floats welcomingly on the white gallery walls, juxtaposed against darker, more ominous exposures. The reflective surface of the copper contrasts with the absorptive properties of the darker shades of other works installed in the gallery. A selection of 2D pieces called Transparencies are large format negatives (4×5) that have been stretched over light boxes and then passed through airport x-ray machines as a ‘baggage facade’.
They are then developed, after being exposed to the pigment-altering radiation. The images produced are scanned and printed in a traditional style. The presentation of the images imitates the traditional presentation of a photograph; contradictory to the display however, the content pushes the boundaries of whether the photograph should be viewed as simply an image, or rather as an object.
The production of the ‘object’ in question is the predominant theme among the finished images and sculptures, drawing attention to process.
In order to recreate the accidental process involved in Beshty’s discovery, he stages the method himself. The concept of forcing an accident is ironic; the methodology involved in the works’ production seems to evoke the complexity of current political concerns surrounding terrorism, as it self-undermines while keeping the nation in a state of alarm.
Beshty appears to have evoked such irony in the works by demanding ‘false’ accidents to change the surface of the prints with the immanent interaction of the public. Accidental marks are encouraged, reinforcing a sense of insincerity that creates a slightly sarcastic lack of earnestness and satire, which is perhaps a purposeful ploy of reflection.