Untitled (Stone dog) Untitled (Stone dog)

Untitled (Stone dog)

By Catherine Czacki

One thing pretends to be another. In this particular case, stone pretends to be paper. Stone is subject to gradual wear from rain and wind. Paper degrades when exposed to minimal amounts of light, water, or time.

Henri Bergson states in Creative Evolution that dogs became towards us, as we become towards them in a unique inter-species co-evolution. We fold into them and they fold into us. We keep them as guards and companions in this life, and as stone immemorial in the next. We are in relationships contingent upon and evolving towards each other. This growth of one species into another is the building of a communication line across vast borders of perception.

The stone breaks down into simpler amorphous shapes, less dog-like shapes.

An inherited Soviet suitcase enlarger allows for an economical home darkroom. We can assume the original intentions for this object. In fact we know some of it’s history, namely to print family photographs in the former Soviet Union. It carries the weight of meaning and has a political substance despite not being a particularly political object.  The contingent portions of its history are imprinted on the worn mechanical parts.

Since the lens is insufficient to reveal the minute, the images only allow for a certain amount of detail. The contrasts are extreme, stark shadows and blinding whites. The depth becomes ominous and hints towards the object’s prior existence as a secretive and illegal device. There are many conflicting truths to this object.

Maurice Merleau Ponty asserts that night is night and daylight is daylight in whatever language.

The difference is provided through usage. With the enlarger, the difference is illuminated by time and context. The images produced are now contextualized as artworks instead of family mementos. Barthes’ notion of ‘punctum’ is relevant as it questions which is more poignant: the accidental capture of loved ones, or the willful capture of an image to be conceptually framed. The images are still produced in a darkened home bathroom out of economic necessity, as originally with this device, only now the impetus is nostalgia for the form instead of lack of availability.

Digital images are not enough. The antiquated form is used because it requires touch. Touch that is felt as a loss in the immediacy of the digital. Even if the final image becomes digital, at least the layers of time can be felt through the process of the printing, the darkness and lightness becoming archived on paper. The imperfect grid was hand-carved then imprinted with ink as an overlay. What is meant to slightly obscure is also an agent of layering, an additional indicator of time, a process of mark-making with the means to provide darkness, lightness and texture to the image. Another competition between two truths of dark and light. The truths of competing histories of objects are revealed through a series of steps that produce images through magical alchemy.

The supposed founding principles of metaphysics are darkness and lightness. Rendering a form in those two extremes focuses in upon the object without the distraction of color. Color is the distancing element, highlighting surface and sidestepping the object’s existence within space.

Black and white images weave narratives of forms rendered in light and shadows only, narratives of time before color.

The enlarger is only a tool. Its meaning unfolds and is created by the printing done with it, at the hands of many people. No story is less true, all are variable and contingent upon time, place, and use. Objects and images fool themselves with malleable meanings, creating impact on a viewer with the image they burn into memory.

“If everything about matter is real, if it has no virtuality, this means that the object’s medium is spatial. The object, while it exists in duration, while it is subject to change, does not reveal more of itself in time: it is ‘no more than what it presents to us at any given moment.’(Bergson) By contrast, what duration, memory, consciousness bring to the world is the possibility of an unfolding – a narrative – a hesitation. Not everything is presented all at once.” — Elizabeth Grosz

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida.
Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution.
Elizabeth Grosz, Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power.
Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto.
Maurice Merleau Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception.


Image Credit:
Catherine Czacki
Untitled (Stone dog)
8″ high x 10″ wide,
B/W 35 mm print, acrylic ink.