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Indepth Arts News:

"Jan Dunning: Eerie"
2004-02-14 until 2004-03-14
31 Grand
Brooklyn, NY, USA United States of America

31Grand is proud to present Eerie, photographs by Jan Dunning. In the mid-nineteenth century writings of Lewis Carroll, the creator of Alice's Wonderland, he refers often to his theory of a human being's three psychic states, in which he is most fascinated by the idea of an "eerie state" of consciousness. Carroll defined this as an in between place, located after "ordinary" awareness, which is conscious only of reality, and coming before the "trance" or sleeping state, in which we dream. To be in the eerie state is to have simultaneously a logical sense of one's surroundings and a heightened awareness of the supernatural.

Jan Dunning works with pinhole photography for the similar way in which it combines the apparently opposing realms of the magical and the realistic, bridging the material and the immaterial worlds. By harnessing photography's paradoxical nature she can, as Marina Warner puts it, "seize evidence" of the fantastic, to present a magical and metaphysical take on the modern world. Subverting our expectation of photography as an objective genre, documenting without interpreting, her work recalls the days of the medium's invention and its original connotations of alchemy, witchcraft and superstition. Long exposures, infinite depth of field, the idiosyncrasies of home made cameras; these characteristics allow intuition and accident to assert their influence, and for ideas of the invisible, the unknowable, the fantastic and the unique to take precedence.

For her first solo exhibition in New York, Dunning directs disturbing pieces of theatre, conceived either in her imagination or inspired by existing narratives and played out in one exposure for the camera. The resulting work, the series Metamorphoses, depicts epic transformations, many of which are reinterpretations of Ovid's mythical tales. The photographs strive to unsettle by proffering evidence of events unseen, unfathomable or implausible. By re-enacting Leda's encounter or Helen of Troy's hatching, by turning women into birds or growing eight legs as a contemporary Arachne, the pinhole camera allows the artist or her models to mutate, reinventing themselves as impossible hybrids, clones and monsters. At times grotesque and malevolent, at others regenerative and productive, the physical according to the artist is indefinable, untrustworthy even. Images reveal and yet conceal, the familiar world is made strange and a higher value is placed on emotional experience and imaginative escape. Within her themes of multiple identities and the evolving self, Dunning suggests that the eerie pinhole perspective is the ideal mediator of modern insecurities.

Jan Dunning,
Arachne (from Metamorphoses),
color pinhole photograph, 2003

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