Nicholas Kersulis


Installed in Los Angeles, a matter of seconds engaged the viewer’s body by pointing out details of the interior and exterior architecture: the glass storefront that divides the art space from the street, the door jamb and length of wall around it, the height and temporal dimension of the space’s existing interior walls, and the corner between wall and floor. This use of space was as important to the reception of the work as its visual representation. The work elaborated on a pre-filmic representation of movement, with still photographs evoking movement in real space and time. It asked: is vision tactile? In that visitors had to move their heads from side to side, as if watching tennis, perhaps the motion presented here was not illusory but real.

Through photographs, a matter of seconds became the basis for five different works: 3–4 seconds, pulse, murder, shadow, and movie poster. Each was made in an edition of three (plus artist’s proofs). Conventional distinctions between photography, printmaking, and painting were disrupted when the photographic ‘truth’ of events was re-presented and repeated in different forms.

a matter of seconds (3–4 seconds). 26 black and white images printed full frame; each image c. 14 × 20”. The photographic prints were pinned to the wall in a configuration alluding to the movement of its subject, a beer glass rolling down a slanting plane. This simple event was recorded using a handheld 35mm camera with a motor drive set at eight frames per second.
When the piece is installed, the images are laid out according to their positions during the event, combined with the logic of midday sun: the number of the negative, the shadow and reflection of the sun on the glass, and the edge of the plane down which the glass rolled are all taken into account. Because of the multitude of variables in recording the event, the depiction or interpretation of it in the gallery changes each time the piece is installed.
When hanging the work, squinting your eyes will create the illusion of movement from image to image of the glass. It will also elide the frame of each print, and hence the framing of the image in the viewfinder of the camera.
a matter of seconds (shadow). Oil-based ink printed on 5 Formica panels; each panel c. 11 × 14”. Since the rolling of the glass occurred very quickly, there was no time to consciously frame each image of it. In shadow the frame is cropped so that the image rests in line with the x-y axis of the wall grid. It is further manipulated through the process of photo silkscreen.
The images are printed on white Formica, which has then been mounted on plywood that is beveled to create an actual shadow on the wall. Faint and low contrast, the image comes and goes as the viewer walks by; its visibility is dependent on the viewer’s relationship to a light source in the room. The shadow on the wall, on the other hand, is consistently present.
a matter of seconds (murder). 5 color and 5 black and white photographs; each 3 × 3”. The premise that a legal document inherently holds ‘truth’ is pitted against a retelling of the simple event of a glass rolling. Photographs offer a documented truth that may easily, however, become fictionalized. Murder employs the photographs of the glass and a group of found forensic photographs. The cropping of the black and white photographs down to the scale and size of the forensic images, the use of the floor as if it were a continuation of the floor in the forensic images, and the repeated, fluid order of the initial frames recording the movement of the glass engage the viewers’ space as they squat down to see the work.
These formal devices set up a binary opposition between two events: the glass rolling and the forensic photographer doing his job. Each is recorded with a camera and hung in a numbered sequence, but because of our visceral, physical identification with an image of a murder victim, the binary structure is disrupted. The event of murder lies outside photographic representation; just as the introduction of forensic photographs into the art gallery disrupts the cultural representation of ‘art’, the event of murder disrupts the overtly controlled binary structure.
a matter of seconds (pulse). Oil-based silkscreen on canvas with oil ground; 41” × 11’6”. The colors of this work cannot be properly duplicated because the yellow is somewhat fluorescent and the gray is slightly tinged with rose madder and violet. As a result, the printed image vibrates, offering a tactile feeling to the eye.
The eleven and one-half foot canvas is the length of the wall on which it hung in the gallery space. The last image printed wraps around the side of the stretcher bar, so that in that installation it butted up against the door jamb. The first image shows the glass being held still by my hand, and it defines the upper-right corner of the painting, as it is a stationary image. The fourth image defines the bottom edge of the stretcher bar as it depicts the lowest part of the curve made by the movement of the glass. The size of the canvas was defined by the amount of space needed to show these first six frames of the rolling glass when each image was printed the same size as those of 3–4 seconds.
a matter of seconds (movie poster). Oil-based silkscreen printed on both sides of Chartham Translucent paper, double-sided frame; 25‑3/4 × 38”. movie poster involves a staged event illustrating the phrase ‘with a gun to my head’. A photograph of this action is printed on the reverse of an appropriated film still from the 1962 movie Hud (shot by James Wong Howe on location in Texas). The close, shallow space of the staged photograph contrasts with Hud’s classic depiction of American ‘freedom’—the never-ending expanse of space, cut down the middle with a road. Hung in the glass storefront of the gallery, the double-sided frame allowed these two spaces to coexist in two different viewing spaces: the conventional storefront display and the interior of the art gallery.
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