NK: Many of your ideas remind me of the Russian avant-garde: going to zero, breaking the frame, relating material to form and representation … You want to break the frame because you wish to restructure the dichotomy between the work and the spectator by foregrounding the relationship between the maker and the subject. Is this the ethnographic function of your work?
BSM: I talked about this a little bit in my presentation with Patricia [Gherovici]. When I began visiting the former Navy base on Vieques to find out what it was possible to see there after military occupation and what it was possible to think when you think through a camera, I realized that it was unrealizable for me to get away from the position of seeing a nostalgic ruin of the traces of military presence. It was impossible in a very material way not to feel monumentality of the place. It takes 10 minutes to walk from one end of a dock to another because the dock was made for submarines. How do you stand there anymore without always feeling that you are standing on a dock made for submarines? How do you imagine anything else? The place is changing now; there are no subs coming in and out, the turtles are coming back, but you are still standing on a dock. As I look through the camera lens, the lines that I see enforce the monumentality of the space and of the domain that the rational plane of the camera creates; it refers to traditional landscape and aerial military photography. All of that is embedded in the lens, in the machine, in the way of looking. One of the ways I thought was necessary to begin to think differently was literally to break the camera, break the rational frame. How can you see in a way that does not reproduce the idea of monumentality and the idea of ruin? So I started folding up that space, breaking it in different ways, and seeing what happens. This is similar to Monique Wittig’s breaking of familiar language in Les Guérrillères. We cannot start with the same language because it obscures things that we are accustomed not to see and not to think about. What can we do formally and materially to correct this? Even if we do not know what needs to be seen, just as we do not know what needs to be said, at the very least we can start breaking up those familiar faces and investigating the gaps that appear as a result of this process.
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