Friday, December 12 and up through January 10
Please join us for a reception for the artist on Friday, December 12 from 6-9pm.
Matt Siber: The Untitled Project
Artist's Statement & Rod Slemmons Essay
In The Untitled Project, Matt removes all traces of text from photographs he has taken of various urban settings. This same text is then reintroduced by placing it in its correct position on another print hanging to the right of the original, albeit altered, photograph. Matt writes: The absence of the printed word not only draws attention to the role text plays in the modern landscape but also simultaneously emphasizes alternative forms of communication such as symbols, colors, architecture and corporate branding... The isolation of the text from its original graphic design and accompanying logos, photographs and icons helps to further explore the nature of communication in the urban landscape as a combination of visual and literal signifiers.
click image to view Matt Siber's Current Work
Matt Siber - Artist's Statement
The Untitled Project is rooted in a base interest in the nature of power. With the removal of all traces of text from the photographs, the project explores the manifestation of power between large groups of people in the form of public and semi-public language. The absence of the printed word not only draws attention to the role text plays in the modern landscape but also simultaneously emphasizes alternative forms of communication such as symbols, colors, architecture and corporate branding. In doing this, it serves to point out the growing number of ways in which public voices communicate without using traditional forms of written language.
The reintroduction of the text takes written language out of the context of its intended viewing environment. The composition of the layouts remain true to the composition of their corresponding photographs in order to draw attention to relative size, location and orientation. The isolation of the text from its original graphic design and accompanying logos, photographs and icons helps to further explore the nature of communication in the urban landscape as a combination of visual and literal signifiers.
Rod Slemmons Essay
Photographer Walker Evans, working in the 1930s, noticed that American spaces, rural and urban, had begun to fill with words?billboards, advertisements, business names on buildings, highway signs. He purposefully included them in his images, first to oppose his artsy, nostalgic contemporaries who would go to any length to remove the present from their photographs. But soon Evans noticed that something strange happened when the two systems of notation?text and image?were seamlessly combined, one within the other. The two kinds of ?reading? conflict, and our minds get stuck somewhere between the two, leaving us in a position to question the adequacy of both as methods of assigning meaning. Evans preferred doubt to confidence, so this worked fine for him.
Matt Siber has extended Evans's experiment by reminding us of the pervasive image/text stream that we swim through every day. One complicating difference is that now the landscape is also full of photographic images. At this late date we are barely aware of the effects of this stream?fish have no need to wonder about water until it is gone. By removing the text from an entire photographic image and placing it to one side, Siber forces us to again consider Evans?s point about differential ?reading.? Cleansing the advertisements of their text makes us aware of how the photographs in them work, and how clever the ad designers are at manipulating our ?reading.?
More importantly, perhaps, Siber reminds us that artists, at least conceptual artists, view the photograph as a flat field of information rather than a window. He accomplishes this by re-posting the removed words on a blank sheet next to the expurgated original. They pop to the surface of the sheet turning it into a page. Like the painter with a blank canvas, and writer with a blank sheet, the photographer starts with an invisible idea and collects visual facts to support it.
Rod Slemmons, Director
Museum of Contemporary Photography
Columbia College Chicago