The Disjointed Intrigue of Michele Abeles

New York artist, Michele Abeles, is often described as “post-Internet”, a term justified in her case because of her extensive use of post production systems, including Photoshop. For Abeles, a camera is not always geared towards capturing a moment from the past, but is instead a device to help her generate a new moment, a new event.

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For example, she recently exhibited a series of photographs at an exhibition in London (2014), among which were a B&W series in which a few of Abeles’ photographs had been converted into algorithms, before being reproduced as pixellated black and white grids. The result was like something out of the popular game Tetris, and very far removed from what anyone has ever expected to see from a photograph. It was beguiling, a little unfathomable. It was reality that had been plunged into the abyss, thrown back up as shadowy phantoms. There was something eerie and disturbing here.

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There were clues as to the origins of the unsettling visual data, though, with Abeles cloaking transparent prints over the pixellated grids, these prints including water and office buildings. They offered the audience some tantalising hope as to where these regurgitated, shadowy images had derived from, but at the same time they also extolled the mystery. The appendages, indeed, damaged the chances that these were abstracts.

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But total mystery and abstraction is not, perhaps, Michele Abeles’ remit. Her images are surreal, yes, and digital composites flare up here and there, offering familiarity yet elusiveness. Cameos come, cameos go, and Abeles enjoys developing an image beyond what the camera records so as to throw her audience off course. And she even admits to being interested in some ‘spectral in-betweenness,’ as well as ‘being a ghost asked whether I believe in ghosts myself.’

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But she is ultimately attempting to demonstrate how information in our post-Internet age is transmitted before being receiving at another end, and in this there is some mystery – but not a complete one. But it is this hint at mystery that makes Abeles’ photographs challenge any preconceived notion of what a photograph should be. Is a photograph the final product? Is it the end, or the means to another end? For Abeles, it is the latter.

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For the last hundred years or more, we have understood a lot of our world through images taken by cameras. In the last year or two, more photographs have been taken than ever. Perhaps it is for this reason that Abeles’ photographs challenge and confuse us so much, because she collapses space, crops wildly, destroys our conventions and juxtaposes wildly. Because images have helped to shape our reality, Michele Abeles is also rupturing our understanding of real life.

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(photo source: 47 canal)