Under the Last Sky
O’Born Contemporary, Toronto, Canada
September 12 – October 11, 2013
Tamira Sawatzky, Elle Flanders
The title of Public Studio’s new exhibition, Under the Last Sky, is a phrase borrowed from the late poet Mahmoud Darwish: “Where should we go after the last frontiers? Where should the birds fly after the last sky?” In 1985, Edward Said produced a book together with photographer Jean Mohr called After the Last Sky, a photo book that emanated from an absence of images; a people who were never seen nor heard. Today, we have a different problem-the ubiquity of images-but still the crisis of representation persists. Currently, millions of images are being recorded from mechanized apparatuses that document our lives without our awareness or permission. While surveillance has been with us for some time, the consequences are now greater: Targeted killing, collateral damage, and the death of privacy. This catastrophic sequence of events begins with an image.
Public Studio, in their ongoing investigation of war in the everyday, use silicon wafers as a starting point to engage in conversations about surveillance, drones, and image making. Under the Last Sky considers the current state of photography and its relationship to us. Further, Public Studio interrogates the radical notion that photography is no longer produced by people but rather is a function of digitized mechanisms caching and recirculating millions of images.
The silicon wafers are etched on one side with images of skies where drone attacks occurred over the past year. The obverse hosts electronic circuitry produced through photolithographic processes that are both highly technologically advanced and simultaneously reliant on some of the oldest photographic practices known. The artists thus scrutinize the photographic medium by presenting a history lesson of photographic practices – from daguerreotypes to digital images in this meditation on the relationship between surveillance and photography.