"how do we remember the passage of light and time?": Magali Duzant, artist
21 jul 2016 by Brooke Eastman
Working with time-based processes, Magali Duzant incorporates photography, video, and text to examine the roles of technology and translation as mediators of our experiences, as well as our desires to track, record and analyse our daily lives.
Projects are based in time and are often site-responsive, taking the course of the day to unfold, as the passage of light across an object illuminates the room in infinite variations or an image takes hours to expose in front of the viewer. Through the process of continual collection, personal experiences are archived and made collective, presenting themselves as catalogues of the everyday. In working within a process-based practice, romantic gestures emerge from the data as answers to a rapidly changing, digitised world.
Magali Duzant with work from the 'ROYGBIV' series, image courtesy of the artist.
B.E. What projects have you been working on lately?
M.D. Lately I've been working on a series of cyanotypes, in which the traditional sun print process is slowed down and transferred to an interior light print. Slide projectors take the place of the sun as exposure unit. The images of light on water and waves crashing take days, weeks to expose within a gallery setting, allowing visitors to watch the process of a photograph being made. The burned-in image becomes less a reproduction and more a translation, picking up ambient light and motion--each tremor, each passing person being incorporated into the new image. The series is called 'The Sea, The Sea' from a Paul Valery poem referencing the cyclical, never ending nature of the sea--a contrast to the disposability of images in today's digital world.
Additionally, I recently mounted a new version of my piece 'Golden Hours: Live Streaming Sunset' at the Queens Museum as part of the museum's biennial exhibition (up through the 31st of July). The piece is a live video feed, switching time zones on the hour to track the setting sun around the world. In this iteration, I ran the piece from Cairo to Lampedusa to Sweden and on ending in Brazil. The video serves to create a window onto the “other” -- multiple continents and cities, including those currently in the midst of the migrant crisis – whilst being framed around the most universal of experiences, the desire to look towards the sun. I'm currently prepping for a three-person show at the Pelham Arts Center that opens in September.
B.E. Where do you find inspiration for your work?
M.D. I tend to find my inspiration in a few places. Working and tinkering in the studio can lead to process questions that find themselves as the basis of new work. I made a piece where I projected a slide into an image as part of an installation and that project led me to thinking about whether or not I could burn a line into a piece of paper with a bulb. This ended up being the building block of the cyanotype works.
Additionally, I read massive amounts. I grew up as a very shy, only child and my parents worked long hours, so I found myself either alone a lot or with my great grandmother or once in high school, on the subway quite often. I filled those hours with reading and still do. I read the newspaper in print every morning and the New Yorker religiously. I love fiction as well. Sometimes it's reading an article about untranslatable words (manifested in the research around a project I'm kicking around about the language used to describe mysticism); or the letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz (the basis of my artist book, I Looked & Looked); and sometimes, it's simply collecting lines and phrases I find interesting. I go for long walks a few times a week, early in the morning before I work or on the way to the studio. I rarely photograph on these walks; I just look and think things through. There's something about that time that can be so helpful; I put my phone away and let my mind wander. Something always come up or is resolved. Looking at art gets me motivated to make art, but in general, I find inspiration outside of that.
Magali Duzant, Live Streaming Sunset, live-streaming projection, 244 x 183 cm., 2015, image courtesy of the artist.
B.E. You work with the subjects of light and time, which also become the media of your artworks, as well. How do you navigate this intersection of subject and medium?
M.D. I feel that one informs the other. I look at the two as a pronged question – how do we experience light and time as well as how do we remember the passage of light and time? In certain works, I'm looking at ephemerality and the attempt to pin things down or stretch them out. In this way, light is a perfect subject – it can be captured much like time being frozen by a photograph, but it is for everything a moment that has in and of itself passed. Photography is a perfect medium for this, as is projection. I am thinking more and more though on how to capture and cement that in physical form as a work that creates or plays with time and light or that works as a record. In the cyanotype work, I'm concerned with recording the two. In my prism sculptures, the pieces exist in one form, as sculptures, but are activated as experiential works by light for a specific period of time (when sunlight rakes across them causing them to beam bands of lights around the room). The majority of my artworks work in two ways – the process is shown, as is the finalised record, or the instrument is on display both inside and outside of the specific time that the piece is in process – projecting, shining, reflecting.
B.E. How does technology play a role within your practice?
M.D. Technology is a large part of my process; much of my work touches on a basic theme of technology as the mediator of our experience, either abstractly or concretely. We live in a world in which technology shapes everything we do and see, from our work to our romantic lives to the ways in which we see nature and ourselves. There are positives and negatives to this. I use technology as a means to my work – soliciting letters via email chains – as well as a frame to my work – sunsets captured via surveillance camera, projected out onto floating screens. I work with digital as well as analogue technology. The slide projector is simply outmoded technology. It is the lens through which the cyanotypes are viewed and made. Technology is a tool, but more and more, it is a force – it shapes how and where and when we communicate.
Magali Duzant, Anna / Blue, cyanotypes on Rives BFK, 33 x 48 cm., 2015, image courtesy of the artist.
B.E. You'll be heading to Atina, Italy for a residency in a few months. What is an artist residency like in comparison to your usual studio practice?
M.D. A residency is a great way to amp up and reconsider a studio practice. The way that a vacation or a weekend can refresh you is similar to the effects of a residency. It is easy to sink into the studio and realise you've been working alone for far too long. A residency provides new perspectives and opportunities, new eyes and ears. Going somewhere and seeing something new can spark a whole new body of work or unearth a new way of working. I find travel always helps clear out and bring in new ideas, but a working away trip (one that doesn't necessarily have tight deadlines or incredible pressure) brings the refresh of a vacation with the buzz of new creative stimuli. It's good to be out of one's comfort zone in terms of one's work.
B.E. What are you most looking forward about this residency in particular?
M.D. This residency is themed around astronomy and light, two things that my work touches on, so I'm excited to meet the other artists involved. It's lovely to see new work and to discuss work with artists interested in similar topics. And then, of course, Italy for a few weeks is always a draw. I'm looking forward to seeing some shows currently up in Rome and Naples and new landscapes, in general. [Atina] has dark-sky status, meaning the star viewing is pretty incredible. I'm planning on expanding my work with alternative photographic processes and the thought of doing so in these surroundings is a bit of a thrill.
Magali Duzant, ROYGBIV II, site-specific light producing work, 30 x 7 x 7 cm., 2015, image courtesy of the artist.
B.E. What's next for you?
M.D. Next up I'll be working on a new book project using material from my series 'Sympathetic Magic'. It's a project where I had my aura (energy field) photographed every two weeks for a year and then researched, in ever widening circles, the history of spirit photography and kirlian imagery--from Victorian era fads to Soviet psychic labs on to studies at UCLA and the California New Age and the current commercial field built up. The book is a collection of research materials and original photographs I have made.
Additionally, there will be a show in London later this fall after the residency at Lumen Studios in November.