In her experimental-analytical photo series and site-specific space installations, the US artist Liz Deschenes reflects on the technical foundations of photography and the photographic apparatus. Choosing sometimes extraordinarily simple photographic techniques, Deschenes goes back to the origins of her medium, bypassing the entire discourse of photography, as it were, although she ultimately does address it in subversive ways. Deschenes also engages the ubiquity of screens and modern imaging processes, for example in Black and White #1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (2003) and Blue Screen Process Series (2001), in an endeavor to expand the dialogue between photography and other media of art.
Site-specific photographic installations such as Tilt/Swing (2009), for which Deschenes arranges six photograms in the form of a portal open in all directions, go far beyond the conventions of photography, initiating a dialogue with the architecture and the beholders, whom Deschenes invites to consciously experience the space.
Monochrome art is a point of reference in Deschenes’s art insofar as the rejection of depiction in modernist painting condemned photography to take on that function, whence monochromatic and self-reflective strategies have not put down deep roots in photography. The photograms, for example—Deschenes simply titles them “photographs”—are pictures created without the use of a camera, by directly exposing photosensitive paper. Depending on the exposure and the fixers used to finish the photograms, they come out black, white, or silvery and mirror-like. They are not flawless and perfect, but show traces of handling and manipulation, like the artist’s fingerprints or streaks left by photochemical solutions. They are self-reflective, documentary, process-based, and abstract at once, uniting characteristic qualities of what are usually mutually exclusive domains of photography. In her most recent works, Deschenes has increasingly examined the format of the exhibition and its specific issues. With a healthy dose of wit and irony, she also touches upon themes of institutional critique, for instance by hanging one of her works in a museum such that daylight falls on it—very verboten, if you ask a conservator. For her solo exhibition at the Secession, Deschenes is creating a new work in which she will also respond to the room.
Liz Deschenes (b. Boston, 1966) lives and works in New York.