The magic of violence.
The latest exhibition by brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez is culled from photos from the past five years and offers a survey of their fascination with the violence which, seemingly, exists on the cusp on everyday life. Although all of their carefully composed and staged photos imply immersion in some sort of narrative, their strength, and even their theme, is the point at which the narrative becomes no longer tenable. In fact, they aren't narrative pictures at all; they're descriptions of metaphysical states.
The liberation from narrative and its vortex of meaning comes in the form of violence. This is true in more than just the obvious sense. Although their work utilizes the aesthetic stupidity of photojournalism on a certain level, it does not so much represent violent acts as it seeks to capture the essential pulse of what violence is. This is rendered in a battle between the banal and the beautiful and it is violence which functions as the magical principle upon which all else depends.
In 'Stigmata' they overtly play on religious symbolism and horror movies to create a sense of rupture from the everyday. But this also comes out on a purely formal level. They play against the canonical representation of the Divine, decentering the subject on a grid that breaks up and skews diagonal. The tiles of the bathroom literally echo the grid and its skewering while the hair of the model echoes the Christ of Durer. Added to this, the figures in the image, carefully posed in a highly mannered way, are 'cropped' in a manner that causes the situation to lose all cosmic aspect and be reduced to a moment of intimacy and embarrassment. This is extended by the photo's parodying of pathos. Rather than beads of messianic blood or tears, there are hyper realistic droplets of water suspended on the woman's face, devoid of any affective value and gliding over the pretensions of emotional depth.
Scale is crucial in the work of the brothers. For 'Stigmata' that means truncating things, but for most of that work it means creating a general field which renders pathos vague or trivial. This strain of contextual indifference is carried on in the majority of the photos. Nearly always shot in landscape format with the most of the figures decentred within the frame, the human subject is rendered insignificant while nature gains in crucial importance. Human bodies barely cast shadows and when they do it is merely as an echo of some inanimate object. This is not a romantic nature, nor is it a nature that is chaotic, on the contrary. Nature comes across as a perfectly organized and completely calm world. Tightly gridded and devoid of any injection of sympathy, it is thoroughly indifferent to the violence of human subjects. It's even more mute than the colour palettes most of the images contain.
This idea can also be seen in the extreme wide shot of the crematorium which is made up almost entirely of a wooded area and a blanket of snow. The vertical progress seems endless, but it is abruptly cut off and disavows any of the metaphysical pull that the vertical thrust so often holds. The crematorium itself is essentially a blank spot at the edge of this ellipsis. The idea is also present in the shot of the remnants of the atomic bomb dome where even the people in the park around it, acting essentially as litter, are indifferent to the carnage of history. In 'Friendly Fire', blood, presumably from a dead soldier, is on the ground, but it looks more like a carefully shaded shadow cast by a rock than a scene of death. Adding to the lack of anything indicative of dramatic tension, the focal values that delineate the rock in the desert landscape deny the foreground substantial force.
Violence looms in the photos as the force of temptation; the desire to speak with nature which steadfastly refuses to answer or even acknowledge a voice. All actions are futile and result in silence. There are no words, or even letters, in the images. They have all been carefully removed. This push on anonymity is best exemplified by 'Masked' in which a figure hides their face by a balaclava. The loss of the face is doubled by the black back of the mirror into which the figure peers. The black void connects to the lines of the blind, pulling them into the foreground with the face. Verticality, which we saw previously to be of import in the crematorium, is repeated here as a strategy of denying the 'normalcy' of the subject. This ritualized action is a bid to enter into the magical realm of violence. This force, which is present in 'The Everday' in the form of an explosion with a mysterious, only partially glimpsed, figure at its centre, is also the force of the non-banal, of that which could be rendered beautiful if the context were different. However, these instances of violence are never schematized as the beautiful. That would work too far to redeem them, both ethically and aesthetically. Instead, they retain their neutrality and indifference, which is the true force of violence when it has retained its magic and stayed apart from the capture of the subjective ploy.
Nicholas Metivier Gallery