Elizabeth Gossling’s latest show , BURN, opens at Tintype Gallery, Islington – 16 April – 9 May 2015. An exploration of distraction, destruction and preservation, BURN re-invents the story of John Cura, a man who took photographs of television transmissions in the 50s and 60s. These ‘telesnaps’ represent a lost history in British broadcasting. Gossling imagines Cura mutating into Cura Obscura, a human camera evolving under the pressure and impossibility of capturing every moment on multiplying channels and screens as the speed and intensity of images accelerates. We caught up with her ahead of the show to get some insight into this latest exhibition.
What is the significance of the title ‘BURN’ to the work in your show?
BURN as the show’s title refers not only to the alleged combustion of Cura’s archive but also embraces the history of the televisions boxes themselves with pre and early post war sets nicknamed as widow makers and curtain burners because of their volatility the title also plays with the idea of visual consumption from our glowing screens and the process of burning as an outmoded means of recording digital data.
How do you create the images we’ve seen in your latest pieces?
I worked with a specialist 3D printing company in London who scanned a male model and 5 television sets from the era that Cura was working in along with my own photographic equipment. The failure in the scanning of the technical equipment was due to their reflective surface which is what generated this ashy aesthetic here is a link to more tech info: www.my3dtwin.com/method/#.VS5P-BPF99s
Your work in this show has a very removed sense of humanity within it, with the washed out grey, did you deliberately set out to dehumanise your subjects, or is that part of the process?
In the show Cura has reached an almost mythological status as ‘Cura Obscura’ an optical chamber and digital corpse operating as an emblem of an evaporating archive locked into the compulsion to capture every digital image that is both available yet disappearing from our screens. The show has become more of a cremation partly due to the ashy aesthetics that evolved in the 3d scanning and rendering. Cura was working in a world of black and white images so it was a natural decision to depict the scenes in the show as relatively colourless.
In capturing the images you’ve chosen, do you feel you’ve managed to ‘arrest motion’ in the sense of Faulkner, or are you choosing to represent something else?
I think that Cura’s work may have been an attempt in that sense as he was creating a permanent pictorial record of images that because of their live and technological nature were ethereal an would be lost forever. It was Cura’s belief that these images would be a valuable reference in years to come both commercially and culturally. As a default the aesthetic of capturing something in motion communicates is quite different that documenting a still object and this is what attracts me to screen shots. In my own work however I tend to subject one technological history against another which is what also generates a movement as a visual friction.
What is it that attracts your view to the incomplete, or distorted images you portray?
Having always been interested in ideas of ‘image failure’ I became fascinated with the lexicology in Cura’s fault descriptions ‘Corona discharge, Ghost Images, Flaring and Saw Toothing’ where part of a potent technical vocabulary which inspired the use of language in my show BURN. The incomplete or disrupted tends to reveal structure beyond the surface of an image and is an entry point into identifying the language behind it construction offering an insight into the context of reading and interpreting it.
Images courtesy Elizabeth Gossling – www.twitter.com/egossling