By Simon Cole
Sara Cwynar is a Canadian photographer currently living and working in Brooklyn, New York. We sat down to talk about her interest in collecting and photography, and hear more about her most recent project: a solo exhibition at the Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam.
My work in photography, installation and book-making begins in obsessively collecting and ordering visual materials. Saving, taking and re-composing images in my art practice is a cathartic means of satisfying a constant impulse I have to collect (even to hoard) and to create a tangible record of my experience, grabbing a small piece of the world and reconstructing it under my own terms. The resulting archive is composed of images saved from years of my own photo-taking; from encyclopedias, flea markets, and people I know, as well as objects I encounter. In this process of accumulation, I am interested in the ways in which we understand the world through pictures: how we view ourselves and our history through a shared image-based archive built from cultural fantasies and photographic tropes (examples include the commercial still life, the family portrait, the headshot and the landscape photograph). I am constructing my own personal archive as a way of intervening into the larger archive which I can’t control.
At Foam, for the central installation of the show, I reinstalled a documentation of a former installation at Cooper Cole Gallery. I moved everything in my studio into the gallery and installed it according to a plan which quickly began to fall apart as images and objects were not how I had remembered them. At the end of the installation, I threw it all away as a means of forcing myself to purge the archive. I was also inspired by this short text by Andy Warhol, where he talks about how he hates nostalgia so he doesn’t want to keep his ephemera or saved possessions around. But he can’t quite get rid of them, so he stores everything in labelled boxes in New Jersey.
I liked the idea of not outright throwing away all of your saved materials, but rather keeping them somewhere for a while. An archive can be overwhelming, especially if you’re a hoarder like I am. I took the large-format negative of the documentation of the installation and printed it as a c-print, then affixed it to a wall I had built in the middle of the gallery, I then began to paste and nail other images and objects onto the picture that somehow related to the things in the original installation (both formally and conceptually), in a sense, reinvigorating or giving new life to the flattened image of this accumulation of discarded objects and pointing to the surface, the two-dimensionality of the image by combining it with real objects and images again.
I am really excited about it! I love the idea of taking an old image and giving it a new context and a new life.
For more information visit www.saracwynar.com
This piece was selected from SFAQ Issue #13.