Wavepool – Time seems to be absolutely crucial in your work, both for producing as the artist and for experiencing as the viewer. Can you share some thoughts on how you make use of it in your practice?
Magali Duzant – I think a lot of my interest in time comes out of a reaction to what we make of it currently. It’s nothing new to say but the internet has radically changed our relationship to time and I’m interested in exploring both sides – the amazing reach we now have, the simultaneity of experiences communicated, as well as the ebb in patience culturally, the million images per minute climate we live in. In a lot of ways I see it as touching on notions of a contemporary sublime. It’s frightening and overwhelming but romantic what we can do, have access to. Time becomes abstract.
I started making work strictly as a photographer but I struggled with something about a single image adding up. As I worked through these thoughts, to varying degrees of resolution, I realized I was interested in something more experiential, more multi-point perspective. I started thinking about the arc of my projects, even the solo images, as the beginning of an idea, the follow through, and the ending result. That’s where I began making work that either sought to provide a multitude of views or that changed throughout an exhibition (slide burnout pieces, long exposure cyanotypes). In this way time became a paramount subject matter as well as a tool on the creation of the work.
I’ve been fascinated with cultural ideas of time – whether linear, circular, spiral, ephemeral, hop scotching; in general the idea of time as not only fluid but also personal. It’s still, to me, the perfect subject for photographic work.
In this sense I often work in loose collaborative structures, either sourcing descriptions of an event or enlisting camera operators. Multiple views of the “present” are described, allowing for a faceted view of a specific event. On solo projects I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of a space and the possibility of pieces effecting the space they’re housed within or providing multiple entry points. Here I’ve worked with prismatic materials that change color and reflection with the passage of the sun as well as the cyanotypes that take days if not weeks to expose.
Wavepool – Live Streaming Sunset touches on a lot of the ideas you just mentioned, and is a particularly captivating idea in my mind. How did that project start?
Magali Duzant – Live Streaming… started from a combination of ideas and experiences. I was born in NY and moved to San Francisco after college and the environment of San Francisco really changed the way I made work. I was enamored with the topography of the city and took a lot of comfort in being able to orient myself via sightline. When I moved back to NY that was missing. I had a real feeling of displacement. I wanted to see my surroundings, what was over the hill and the layout of NY makes that difficult. In addition I felt some emotional displacement at relocating. Home had always been NY in my mind but coming back it didn’t quite fit anymore. Soon after moving back to NY I went to Beijing and was incredibly struck by the idea that the sunrise and sunset were happening nearly in tandem in 2 places so far apart. I’m interested in photography’s relation to making what we cannot see visible (all the way back to Muybridge) and I spun out from there. What does the sunset look like in Beijing? In Berlin, when I’m in NY? What can my friend in Iceland see that I cannot? How can I be with that person, share an experience across distance? The more work I make the more interested I am in the quiet moments in which we experience things be it waiting for the sun to set or noticing how a tree moves so slightly through the lens of a web cam.
I started with a video that paired a sunrise and a sunset and then by projecting a video in real time of the sun setting in California back to NY. It was still a very personal project and as I figured the tech aspects out slowly and discussed it with others I wondered what a personal sunset would be for others and if I could make a collective sunset out of a string of personal ones. It developed further into a romantic gesture of trying to drag out the supposed sublime, warped via the web, spilling out onto the street. Each iteration expands the project, adds new ideas, locations change. It’s a difficult project – the amount of time, energy, and money means it will be a long haul to get it to 24 hrs but it is certainly a labor of love.
Wavepool – I understand you’ve been traveling quite a bit recently. What are you up to, and have any exciting new interests or ideas entered your mind?
Magali Duzant – I am writing to you from Sydney at the moment where I ran a short version of Live Streaming Sunset in a church and installed an exhibition that I helped put together alongside my colleague and close friend Ella Condon and the artists Mark John Smith and Matt Whitman. In addition a concurrent exhibit is on view in Tasmania, where I was 2 weeks ago working on the installation of that show. The shows came out of a dialogue that began after we spoke on a panel at the Society for Photographic Education’s Northeast conference. The conversation centered on expanded ideas of photography, where the photographic becomes motion, sculpture, and more. It’s a trend I’m working with in my own work and am attracted to in the works of other artists, less about the photograph about photography and more the photograph as a broken down fluid medium.
The physical, emotional, conceptual aspects of travel always influence my work. The sunset piece came together through travel and the idea of tracking something through time lends itself to flight patterns. I am going to be in Korea for 4 days to visit my friend, the photographer Ram Jung, and I will leave Seoul on the 23rd at 10 AM and arrive in NY (a 14 hr flight) at 11 AM on the 23rd.
I love the idea of losing a day and then gaining a day when you travel back and forth; this equalizer where you get to repeat a day to make up for the loss of one. You don’t quite get it back but maybe you can make something of that “second” chance day. (Perhaps a bit difficult with jet lag, but never be a naysayer).
My other somewhat silly thing I find inspirational in travel and make a point to do is ride the ferry in new cities. There’s something about a ferry I just adore. Traveling by boat is fun and a ferry is never quite sleek, they’re clunky workhorses quite often. There are specific routines and regulations. The ferry comes on a set schedule, it rocks and sways and you get a very different view then by train or on foot. Of course they’re also quite peaceful and relaxing. When I was Istanbul last summer drinking a tea and riding the ferry was such a highlight on foggy, misty evenings and bright beautiful mornings. I’d like to make a piece about ferries or for a ferry. I guess I’m considering all of my travel to be ferry research in one way or another.
Wavepool – How much of your practice would you say is some form of research?
Magali Duzant – I would say the majority is research, perhaps 70%. Art making is a wonderful way to learn new things and then to digest, analyze, and interpret. I did a joint degree in art and history and have always been a huge reader. In a lot of ways that’s how I’ve approached making my work. I find inspiration in things I read from fiction to non-fiction, pinpoint the exact area of interest or question and then work backwards from there. Sometimes it feels more scientific as with the cyanotypes – I read up on techniques and then run tests. With that one everything seemed to say that slide projectors wouldn’t work and it took months to figure out timing and adjusted chemistry mixes (and so much is still up to chance) but it began to work. The earliest ones that went straight blue are included as prints. They show the evolution of the process and in a way the fickleness of time. For the sunsets it’s been a mix of reading up on time in a cultural understanding and acquainting myself with a ton of tech issues I thought I would never deal with, alongside the math of latitude/longitude/time zones/sunset times.
Almost every bit of research manifests itself in a new idea or project.
Wavepool – Can you tell me a bit about the book you recently published with Conveyor Arts?
Magali Duzant – The book comes from a project I began in 2012. I was just starting and figuring out a precursor video to Live Streaming Sunset and was reading My Faraway One: Selecter Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. I came across two letters in which the artists describe the moon on the same night (dated September 25, 1923) from Maine and upstate NY. The title, I Looked & Looked, comes from a line in Stieglitz’s letter, “I looked & looked & knew I was awake.” I found the line so incredibly beautiful and simple in describing an experience.
Inspired by the romantic synchronicity of this exchange I asked 20 creatives spread out across the country to anonymously write about the moon on the same night. That night turned out to be October 29, 2012 – the night of not only a full moon but Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. The resulting texts describe the presence and absence of the moon. The writings juxtapose the external, descriptive views of the moon and the sky, and the internal, what it feels like to look up and not see or have what you were expecting. Many people wrote very personal entries of longing, aided by anonymity. We look into the night sky and either want to be looking with someone or seeing someone. The moon’s absence is then reflected in the absence of a person. Interspersed are images that I took around the time of the full moon as well as one of the first photographs of the moon ever made – a mirror-reversed daguerreotype by John W. Draper in 1840 from his rooftop observatory. The book is a collection about our relationship with the night sky and with partners and memories – temperamental, constant, intimate. It was designed by the amazing Elana Schlenker and published by Conveyor Arts under the guidance of Christina Labey. I wanted the size to be reminiscent of old Bantam paperbacks (pocket sized). It has a shimmery paper interior and two half moon foil stamps, pink and silver to stand in for O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s moons, on both covers. It’s my most outwardly, intentionally romantic project.
Wavepool – With that being the case, do you see romantic themes taking on a larger presence in your practice?
Magali Duzant – Yes. I think there has been an undercurrent in much of my work towards romanticism – desiring to stretch time, allowing objects or images to unfold, fade and change much like love does, has cropped up in past and current works. Perhaps the big change is that I am more comfortable saying it, embracing it. I speak about my work dealing with time and space, with process, but it deals with intimacy across shared experiences which is pretty universal. Most people know what it feels like to fall in and out of love. Romanticism deals with desire and desire deals with curiosity. The Romantics went out into nature to see and experience. Romance can pull people outside of themselves through physical, emotional, even digital connections. Searching and connection are present in my practice and are definite romantic themes. I’m working on a somewhat silly guidebook based on flyers for psychics that I find on the NYC subway. It might not be shout it from the roof romantic but there is something to these spots of color, of potential answers amidst a daily hum drum commute that feel a bit romantic to me.
To see more, please visit Magali’s website.