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matrices of distortion

A dialogue between Margie Kelk and Alan Sondheim

Margie: Matrices of Distortion is a photographic series which looks at isolated individuals such as the elderly, living alone in their homes and removed from everyday life in our modern, machine-driven society, governed by computer technology. They live as powerless outsiders, in a cold, threatening and metallic-gray world, glittering with menace. Lost, and isolated, they withdraw into their own realm of disorientation.  

Margie: The photographs feature these isolated individuals, rendered through clay, as heads without bodies - shards of themselves, in tension with their situation, a landscape of threatening machinery, bereft of any warmth or nurturing characteristics. Heads lie outside structures, astray. Others warily sprout and peer from various apparatuses. Bewildered, the heads are emphatic, with gray pigmentation, distressed eyes, parched mouths, and cavernous wrinkles. The countless buttons, knobs, and switches, oil drips, and scraps of sharp metal create a frenzied background and express a manic state. There is a theatrical quality to the series.
Alan: Gleaming surfaces, jewel-like finishes, fetishization of machinery - are these individuals who are lost, or are they control surfaces themselves - knobs, levers, themselves - or (on the third hand) are they lost or are they in control?  It seems to me that there's ambivalence about their appearance in the midst of machinery - after all, they're not being cut in two etc. - they're resting or static within the matrix of mechanism. The heads don't seem necessarily bewildered; the knobs etc. don't seem to create a frenzied background to me but an oddly static one. 
Alan: Again, what I like in your work is this very ambivalence; I think your writing sends it into more or less one direction, while the work itself opens up much more territory than that - in fact it opens up even the possibility of the humanization of mechanism, something positive. What's missing is the third term which is found elsewhere in your work, that of the digital - where the computer or automation/coding acts as a relay between the physical reality of the figures and the increasing prevalence of the horizon of the virtual.
September 2011
Images 1-11, digital print on archival paper, 44"x 60" 2011-2012