The Seen and the Unseen questions our sense of place | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Seen and the Unseen questions our sense of place

All three artists destabilize our notions of a fixed reality

Matthew Conboy’s “Picturing me picturing you picturing me …”
Matthew Conboy’s “Picturing me picturing you picturing me …”

In her curatorial statement for The Seen and the Unseen, at Neu Kirche Contemporary Art, Hannah Turpin says that the show exposes “the manipulatable and transitory reality of position and placement.” The exhibition includes works by three artists exploring space and place.

Matthew Conboy’s installation “Picturing me picturing you picturing me …” at first seems like a one-liner, but it is also a clever take on the current state of photography itself. On one wall, a monitor mimics an iPhone’s vertical rectangular shape. On it plays a video of Conboy swiping left through the many iPhone images taken of him using a camera to photograph each person who is simultaneously taking a photo of him with Conboy’s own iPhone. On the opposite wall, a horizontal monitor shows him scrolling through the portraits on his digital camera of people taking his picture while he takes theirs. He is shown with the camera obscuring his face while the images he has taken with a more traditional camera show people concentrating on the task of taking a photograph with a cell phone. The location, recognizable as Beijing’s photogenic Forbidden City, takes a back seat, thus refuting the typical tourist experience. Conboy focuses on the experience between two observers, each simultaneously photographer and subject.

If Conboy’s piece is a type of triangulated selfie, Jimmy Riordan’s “Point A, Point B, Point C” is a different exercise in triangulation. Riordan places three viewfinders on three pedestals, each pointing at the others. Nearby is a triangular floor projection, itself broken up based on the Sierpinski model of continually subdivided, recursively smaller equilateral triangles. Images in the video were gathered from a search for three viewpoints in Pittsburgh where from each the other two are visible.

Lori Hepner’s abstracted Arctic landscapes are similarly convoluted. They are long-exposure “light paintings” that she creates using a multi-step process that includes photographs taken on hikes; LEDs; and movement in a darkened interior space that is barely visible in the background. The resultant images are meditations on climate change, memory, and digital vs. physical experience.

All three artists use closed-loop methods to alter our understanding of location or situation and destabilize our notions of a fixed reality. Interpretation is based on our particular position in space, and even that is inexact and immeasurable.

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