These 13 frames are a digital collage of photographs taken during my travels throughout New Mexico. Each frame was created through the superimposition of several digital images, pieces of images, fragments of faces and place, whose opacity has been changed to create a graphic interface of multivariate representations – for lack of a better word, a screen. This screen is echoed in the text of poem which references a figurative gate of sage and barb built around the reservations of the native people here who have historically been made to feel prisoners of their own natural landscape, caught between image and text. Misrepresented. Characterized and made character. Sewn into a rewritten cultural fabric of memory which is not their own and often lies about the hand that history has dealt them.
These 13 images in collage are meant to represent the composite memory of that conflicted picture.
The impetus for the superimposition of images into a single a frame was an effort to capture the idea of the residual – harking back to language, of what Derrida coined for deconstruction as the “trace.” In his theory of différance, Derrida says that the word (the sign) and its meaning (its symbol, in this case its image) are linked in a transitive system of deferrals, that an image can never truly be defined. There is a liminal space between image and meaning. The images of this project seek to represent that space and the work of memory in defining it. How does our responsibility to remember the history of this land and its people influence our process of assigning these landscapes with visual and textual significations? How does nostalgia play a role in the way we (mis)remember and recreate a past and a landscape which we did not experience? How does this conflict with our desire to forget the massacre that took place here and re-people the images and texts that come from this landscape with implications of reparation and hope?
The color, contrast, hue and light of the images in this project have often been edited (often intensified) to suggest this sort of hyper-real.
The images are numbered to rhythmically represent a bell toll, the western way of remembering our dead, a symbol of the Caucasian cultural imposition on the Native Americans which extends beyond the grave and into the act of the memorializing of their deceased. The numbers are meant to be read before the accompanying text – as a roll call – and are often partially occluded or cut off by the edge of the image to suggest the hast with which we label evidence, we rewrite history, as well as to question the stability of boundaries, of drawing lines around plots of land.
The title, 13 Images on the Horizon, is a reference to Wallace Steven’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” The title also speaks to Simon Ortiz’s book of poetry, From Sand Creek. In Ortiz’s words, “We don’t study horizons as necessity anymore.” The images in this project hope to serve as a minute ode to that horizon line – to its infinity, to its shifting point of reference, to its stately face of beauty.
(Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.