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We humans have evolved to enact a certain kind of looking upon the visual fields before us. Our eyes seek out food sources, objects of sexual desire, and potential threats, our seeing skewed in favor of our tastes and our preferences. We do not most naturally apprehend a scene as an undivided unity. Instead, we evaluate objects within it, then taking what we desire from it. We come to know a locale not as a continuous whole but according to what parts attract our interest. This attitude also informs our art-making: painters, photographers, and filmmakers cut their rectangles off from the world that has nourished them in an act of perceptual and conceptual violence, the better to create their own ego-gratifying artificial constructions, constructions that often center themselves on objects within. I do not claim to be completely free of this attitude in my own art, and perhaps no one can be or should even try to be, but rather I hope, in constructing my own rectangles, to both explore and undercut the ideology that underlies such selections and arrangements. I also hope to thereby question the related approach that we have also been taking to Earth as a whole, dividing it into fragments, and then transporting them, transforming them, even destroying them, a cumulative process that has arguably brought our planet "to the edge of doom." It is almost certainly climate change that has caused much of the devastation and death in the last decade, while an ever-bleaker future threatens. But we have also evolved as creatures capable of great intelligence and sensitivity. There is abundant evidence in the arts and elsewhere that we can strive to envision some form of disinterested yet aesthetically productive observation, even to endeavor to exemplify it in our art. And if we so strive, a beautiful and desired human visage might be seen as having a measure of equality with the space between a tree branch and the forest floor, the latter perceived as itself possessing great beauty. In this form of seeing, all domains are created equal, each tinier measure of the cosmos endowed with equal and unalienable rights. Then must we think twice or thrice before destroying nature for a road or a mine or a building or a golf course or a parking lot. The ways in which we see, and conceive, indeed determine not only the kind of lives we lead, but the kind of planet we leave for our successors.

Most works in Unthreadings arrange from between two and four images; a very few others five or six. The focal position differs in each, the viewer taken on a journey through space. In most images there is at least one area in sharp focus, but in some, that area is very tiny, while in a few, there is none. The eye journeys around and about, seeking a stable anchor, and then, in passing from one image to another, across and through volumes. Each such work must be viewed at length and in silence, with an eye ever-traveling in and through time and depth. Every object interacts with every other and with the spaces between, and our preferences and desires are undermined by the dream of wholeness each work proposes. Each image group is used to create four distinct editions-of-one prints, two in vertical and two in horizontal orientations. All four need not be displayed together, but it is key that the viewer understand that there are four, and feel that, while anyone may have preferences among them, all four are also in some sense equal. If every part of space is equally valued, then there should be no preferred order in which to venture through, and viewing less and more favored prints side by side should alter one's sense of each. One understands the preferences for a specific direction or orientation to another as superficial, and each soon seems as changeable as are the orders in which we view left to right or up to down. Further, within the whole project, while a work based on one image group may seem preferable to another constructed of different images, some images appearing more intensely evocative than others, what should come to matter most is not the pleasure that a single work brings, but rather the way in which each work participates in dialogue with every other work and the possibilities of the project as a whole. There are already so many Unthreadings, with many more to come, that most viewers will not wish, nor have need to, view all of them, but I hope that those who are interested will view a large number. One result might be a meditation on the relationship between the perceived solidity and blurriness of things. Another should be that a shadow of an abstraction takes hold in the mind, containing imagined visions of movements and relationships back and forth and in and out, and thus finally establishing perceived emptiness as the true equal of solid objects.

Each of my projects is informed by related forms of thinking. While some Sequences may move in particular directions, even hinting at possible epiphanies as destinations, such revelations are meant to widen and expand on what had been seen before. Certainly the two or three different angles from which each building in Adjacencies 1: Iowa Houses is seen imply that while many are possible, none is singularly correct. The Accretions are based on the notion that many images are necessary to begin to give any hint of the wholeness of a locale. Permutations proposes that the many images used to present a locale can be arranged in a variety of equally-valid patterns. Each image in Venues 1: Terian Center is modified in brightness, contrast, color, composition, rotation, and sharpness, these the very elements that most photographers seek to control for their art, according to a planned use of random numbers. The use of random numbers to construct Colors 2: And Not implies that no size or proportion is preferable to any other. Figments interjects the artefacts of digital imaging into each work, undercutting identity between a picture and what it depicts in favor of revealing digital images as constructions of solid colors, colors themselves being as fully worthy as differentiated images, an idea that also underlies Kingdoms. In Quarries the attempt, using multiple different types of works based on each image, is to undercut all preferences, beginning with the Grids, digital parsings of each image whose cells are then rearranged randomly, creating patterns that are almost never superficially pleasing, but rather challenge such tastes with instances of clotted repetitiousness and seemingly disorganized fields. Each different type of Quarry work pursues the image in a different fashion, nearly half bringing the innards of a digital image to light by lowering the resolution, others only modifying the image by dividing and rearranging and superimposing, all types destroying that kind of central focus that in Western painting serves to satisfy those desires which confirm us in our narrow, self-serving preferences. We may still appreciate art that seeks to assert or affirm us in our tastes and identities, or perhaps more usefully temporarily convert us to those of the artist, while then also opening to realms beyond the surfaces of our bodies and the narrowness of our accustomed gazes.

Fred Camper
Chicago, Illinois
May 1, 2018.

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