Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
(British Columbia, Canada)
September 10 to October 11, 2015
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller discovered a series of slides made by George’s grandfather, Anton Bures, who died before the artist’s birth. The slides were taken during a trip from Calgary to New York, where Bures, who was suffering from terminal cancer, had an appointment with an oncologist. Road Trip (2004) reformulates the story as a slide show, presented on an old Kodak Carousel, with a soundtrack of a conversation between the two artists.
Faded by time, the slides mark out an itinerary through majestic Canadian landscapes that culminates at the Statue of Liberty. Meanwhile, the voice-over talks about how to sort the slides correctly, as the two artists try to figure out the route taken by Bures’s grandfather. The click of the slides changing, like a percussion instrument, provides a rhythmic backdrop for their doubts and decisions.
Since the wanderings of Ulysses, we have known that every journey occurs within another journey. In this case, the travels involve us in a voyage exploring the purpose of photography. Why do people take pictures? Perhaps Bures knew that his end was near, and the camera was a means of clinging to life. Bures Miller recalls that just before his father left them when his parents divorced, he also insistently and compulsively photographed his children, as if to ward off their imminent loss.
In an episode of the popular Mad Men TV series, Don Draper runs an ad campaign to launch the Kodak Carousel. Draper, also hurt by a breakup, projects photographs of his personal sadness as he explains the Carousel: “It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. . . . It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again . . . to a place where we know we are loved.”
Janet Cardiff was born in 1957 in Brussels, Manitoba, and George Bures Miller was born in 1960 in Vegreville, Alberta. They live and work in Grindrod, British Columbia, and Berlin. Collaborating since 1995, the duo has exhibited all over the world, including at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (2014–15), the 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2013), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki (2012), the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead (2012), Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2011), the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart Berlin (2009), and the Venice Biennale (2001). They have received many awards, including the Käthe Kollwitz Prize in 2011, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 2003, and the Benesse Prize and the Special Award, both from the Venice Biennale in 2001. They are represented by Luhring Augustine in New York.
Portrait: © Zev Tiefenbach
Interview with Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller
The Internet can be thought of as a universal mirror in which the paths of our experience keep on forking: we can decide to exist and act in the tangible world, or in the virtual world, in which case the screen becomes the permeable membrane that affords us passage between one side and the other.
But in re-examining our notion of reality, we must also reconsider the meaning of the documentary genre as such. We can speculate, in deliberately tautological fashion, on the basis of two hypotheses, one holding that reality is what appears on our screens, which act as an interface between subject and object, and the other that in documenting the world in the form of images, we are actually generating more reality.
What is your relationship to the archive?
Our relationship to archive is more an interest in investigation and collecting of objects that have a sense of history and how that history transfers to the viewer that experiences them.
What is the documentary value of photography in the post-photographic condition as digital images can easily be modified?
Photography still stops time for that one moment. It tells about the place where the photographer is standing, the time of day, the weather and we see the world from the perspective of the photographer. I think documentary photography is even more relevant with Instagram and the internet where people want to show where they have been and what they have been looking at.
What is the future of the still and moving image in contemporary art according to you?
The internet is the future… like Arte Povera… the medium has moved to the public. Photography in museums is about aestheticizing and slowing these images down perhaps.