Artforum summer 2007

Review for Artforum

In her work, Maggie Cardelús investigates photography and its relationship to memory. She has created many sculptures or installations made from large surfaces of cut-up photographs, in which the image becomes lost in the tangles of strips of paper. Her most recent exhibition was quite different. She as begun using video, which has radically transformed not so much the thinking behind her work as its effect on the viewer. The first work one saw, the installation Looking for time (all works 2007), includes an eighteen-minute video loop in which time is “ made present”, almost physically perceptible. Its point of departure is a 996 photograph that shows the artist in a room; she is taking the photo while standing in front of a mirror. The video explores this image using a digital editing program that simulates slow pans and zooms, as if a camera were probing the depicted space in long sequence shots. This imaginary mechanical eye moves so slowly that the video becomes almost intolerable to watch. In a separate room hung a print of the original photograph onto which four layers of the image were cut up and super-imposed; also called Looking for time, it literalized the idea of excavating a memory. The inclusion of a ceramic vase as part of the video installation-like an archacological object-underlined this association.

The next work, Mervin, an expanding portrait, was more touching. A photographic portrait of child-one of the artist’s sons, although Mervyn is not his real name-was shown on a screen digitally linked to an Internet site. Cardelús has drawn up a contract, the terms of which are stated in a wall text; the artist promises to keep sending images to the site, thereby documenting the life of the depicted child for the rest of her life. A print of the initial image is kept in a drawer at the base of the frame, and the work will conclude with the insertion into the drawer of the final photo, upon the artist’s death.

The last piece, Zoo age 10, is a technically complex but conceptually simple work. It consists of a sequence of 18,000 photographs shot over a ten-year period-beginning with the birth of the artist’s first child (but again, Zoo is not his real name) and ending on his tenth birthday-that show the boy at home with his family, on vacations, and so on. But images flash by so quickly-eleven per second-that the people and settings seem like amnesiac traces: Barely glimpsed, they are already lost; sometimes recalled, but mostly forgotten. Every thirty minutes the entire collection is shown again, but the computer reshuffles the order, making it even harder to remember the images or make connections between them. The order of images is set to begin repeating again after ten years. This “slide show” is accompanied by a sound as drawn-out as the stream of images is fleeting; a selection from Beethoven, originally twelve minutes long but here stretched out to eight hours. Zoo is not simply a portrait of a little boy but of a place, a lifestyle, an era; above all, it is a mediation on the transitory nature of people and things. Its reassuring images of everyday life disappear, leaving us to reflect on the inevitability of death.