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image by
Lisa Oppenheim

Lisa Oppenheim
Fish Scale, Veritable Hollandais (version 6),2012
Vapours and Veils,
Unique photograms
50 x 34 inches each
106.5 x 86.5 cm each


Fish Scales (Veritable Hollandais), (2012)

The invention of photographic process very closely aligns with the invention of mechanized forms of textile production,
most notably the Jacquered loom in the first half of the 19th century. This loom was operated by punch cards,
a binary system of zeros and ones that was an important precursor to later computer technologies.
Henry Fox Talbot, working in the 1840’s thought of his experiments with positive and negative photography in much the same way,
as a series of binary relationships between the presence and absence of light.

The fabrics used to make these photograms are mechanically produced textiles from the Netherlands
that mimic the handmade batiks of Indonesia and are almost entirely exported to West Africa.
The fabric materializes from and is circulated within a colonial economy. Mechanical apparatuses do not simply produce,
but they are, to quote Geoffery Batchen writing about the advent of computer technology, “the material expression of a certain history,
the mechanical and electronic manifestation of a conceptual armature that insistently reproduces itself ….. *

Positive/negative, handmade/mechanical, colonizer/colonized are all binary oppositions that are constitutive of the making of this series,
not just its content, but its form.

The cloth is used as a negative placed directly on the photogrpahic paper
producing a one-ta-one relationship in scale and pattern.
The colors however, are inverted, as they are the negative of the source.
A second exposure is made by folding the fabric over the photogrpahic paper in another direction,
yielding moire-like patterns that repeat imperfectly throughout the series as they are all folded over imperfectly by hand.
Mechanically produced and theoretically infinitely reproducible patterns are made unique
through a hand intervening in another supposedly infinitely reproducible medium: photography.

*(Batchen, Geoffery. Each Wild Idea. MIT Press, 2000: p. 174).