The Registration Machine
by Jan Lemitz
My work investigates spatial practice as a mode of visibility of social, economical and historical processes by making use of photographic practice. Its focus is on landscape, architecture and their visual representations as formats of expression that allow for the coexistence of sovereignty and its contestations. Rather than working towards completed bodies of work, I am interested in artistic knowledge production that can contribute to making sense of the ‘intensity of circulation’ around us. The work allows rapprochements of contents, producers of content and their audiences across existing boundaries inherent in the visual culture. The work and the formats of presentation encourage associative reading and allow accommodating informal accounts in opposition to official modes of representation.
Interested in the potential of photography as a facilitator of a kind of ‘third space’, my practice facilitates the observation of procedures of power and insurgency on a rather small scale. The potential for subjective articulation and the questioning of predominant means of representation is reflected in the history of the photographic medium itself. It becomes manifest in the parallelisms between official accounts and artistic appropriations of narratives. Photographic practice and display open up an imaginary space where political force fields of power and subversions clash and collapse beyond the predominant force fields of the image economy. The reading of the matter, discharged in the collapse, and its trajectories are addressed in the presentation of my work.
Most recently and still ongoing, the research project The Registration Machine (since 2011) has brought together photographs from a number of archives in Calais, northern France. In this project ‘active’ visual practice is being combined with critically engaging research into depositories of images existent locally in the ‘silent mode’ of the archive. A number of case studies allows to re-frame found material around a variety of key words in non-linear and non-chronologically ways. The resulting piece explores the metaphorical dimensions surrounding the immediate impact of technology, the economic conditions that facilitate it as well as the dramatic changes in the landscapes of today that derive from it. The history of the Channel Tunnel between England and France is at the centre of a series of events staged for the presence of the camera. The tunnel reflects the distinction between wanted and unwanted for mobility and subversive ways around this distinction. In its functioning the tunnel seems to have been transformed from a coherent facilitator of passage and flow into its complete opposite, that of a fractured barrier. The emerging visual landscape is a synonym for the political, economical and technological apparatus organising (European) political space.
Apart from The Registration Machine, this submission contains work that is part of two different projects. Based in Seoul, South Korea between 2008 and 2010, I started working in a way that was also informed by an interest in spatial practices. Architecture – vernacular or not – became a way to sort of ‘read’ through layers of contestations between conflicting forces.
Photographed in neighbourhoods prior to their demolishment, the rooftops are exposed to public gaze, admitting belated insights into private space that has lost its clearly defined boundaries in the wake of its own disintegration. Spatially open and enclosed at the same time, the rooftops reveal as much as they conceal. Objects and materials, from plastic foil to corrugated plates, are indicators of a counter-history with sometimes iconic features. Now, the architecture within the frame is of anonymous authorship and about to fall prey to the very same energy that facilitated, since large parts of Seoul are designated for redevelopment. Along with the coexistence of architectural styles from different eras vanish patterns of horizontally organised social space; urban space articulating an immediate expression of the continuous process of urban transformation. The patchwork city of improvisations and adaptions is about to disappear.
The density between the rooftops suggests a high degree of connectivity and social proximity. The dense network of lanes and alleyways plays an important role in the narratives of popular Korean culture. From strike related factory occupations or protest against real estate tycoons, strategically, the rooftop is a key position in present day political confrontations.
The many sites of small-scale agrarian production are a common feature of the urban landscape of the Seoul metropolitan area. The vacant lots on the edge on the peripheries, next to highways or suburban train lines are home to traditional ways of small scale farming or gardening. Improvised at first glance, these makeshifts have an aesthetic value in their own right. The little shacks and shelters are transient constellations, beautiful in a subtle way. Part of a rather informal economy, their existence follows the cycles of urban development. With a history that is closely related to that of industrial and urban growth, the fields of supply became a space that reflects and rehearses oppositional, subjective practice. Appropriating space and transforming it into purpose-made, organized microcosms seems to be of a somewhat symbolic importance. Politically charged terrain, these sites often times become the battleground for conflicts over development and urbanization.
Jan Lemitz is a visual artist working with photographic, still images.
All images were provided by the artist.
This work was submitted by Jan Lemitz on 20 March 2014.