236 Pender St East,
07 Mar–06 Jul 2024
07 March, 2024
T. +1 604.683.7395
10 January–08 February 1998
Curated by: Reid Shier
The work presented here is only a selection of relatively recent work. There are no examples of my previous work, and an overall view of my photographic oeuvre is incomplete. This exhibition is perhaps inhibited by these simple limitations. In considering the development of a valid contemporary photographic practice today I have simultaneously accepted the picture making tradition while acknowledging the influence of conceptualism to recent photography. I conceive of my total photographic oeuvre to be a pluralistic and heterogeneous archive, involving several photographic models and diverse subjects.
The city is one of the staple subjects of photography. As a latent image it is present from the medium’s inception, and a historical genealogy would suggest that the medium’s ancestor, the camera obscura, developed from a new consideration of human vision and its construction of urban space. There is a special relationship between photography and the city that no other artistic medium can claim with equal validity. This relationship is constituted primarily by their mutual respect for perspective, but also photography’s inherent indexical idiosyncrasy. A lesser known history of early photography suggests that the city as a subject was ideal for the conditions and limitations of the medium’s less mature forms of technology – so with technical improvements inversely photography’s development moves away from the still-object nature of urbania towards the theatrically engaged representation of people.
The images in this exhibition hypothetically return to that historical moment when non-people photographs are the predominant form of photographic expression and experimentation – this moment perhaps constitutes a photographic model (documentary photography in Paris around 1850). My own photographs are images of the conditions within our contemporary cities reconsidered as picture types through the example of this photographic milieu. “Documentary in style”, they are images of architecture, the street, foliage, vehicles, cultural objects – realist representations of the banal mutated urban site. What is contingent is the resistance of optimism, the residual trace of transience, the collective cultural erasure of both micro and macro histories.
A passage that I have often come back to when making my pictures can be found in Roland Barthes Camera Lucida;
In photographs I was combining two voices : the voice of banality (to say what everyone sees and knows (studium)), and the voice of singularity ((punctum) emotion which belonged only to myself). It was as if I were seeking the nature of a verb which had no infinitive, only tense and probe.
As a short comment on the presentation of photographs I feel that there are of course many variable ways to exhibit pictures. The recent practice is to produce photographs that are large scale and framed. My own images are medium in scale and unframed. They are printed and spaced on both 16×20 and 20×24 sheet Kodak type c paper. As a mounting device I apply white tape adhesive. This method of presentation of course is just as valid as large scale framed photographs. I am unaware of any rules one should apply to the consideration of exhibiting photographs, however this clerical issue will exist as a problematic and unresolvable dispute. I think what is important when looking at images is essentially the image – however I do acknowledge the phenomenological argument that centres around experience. My own decision to exhibit these photographs as simply unframed raises the notion of the status of the print in recent photographic art, but also addresses economical limitations.
A recent graduate from the BFA program of the University of British Columbia, this was McFarland’s first solo exhibition. McFarland’s work has strong links to the social documentary photographs of Vancouver artists Roy Arden and Jeff Wall, and represent a legacy of their teaching in this city. His work documents transitional points in the geography of Vancouver and its environs, locations which are in flux from one use to another. While some represent the transitional moment between a landscapes rural or agricultural use and its development into the urban infrastructure, other photographs of McFarland’s pinpoint urban areas which through disuse, are returning to a ‘rural’ ecosystem.