ARTIST'S STATEMENT AND EXHIBITION PROPOSAL :
The exhibition I wish to propose is for an installation consisting of large photographs. I would like to exhibit ten to fifteen prints, approximately 24in X 60in each. This project, entitled "Oases: Urban Sanctuaries", continues and develops themes that have concerned me for the past decade. The project furthers my investigation of issues I looked at in "Souvenir: A Road Show", shown at Artspeak Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. in 2003 and in "Autopia" another project I completed in 2006 (see website: www.margaretlawther.com). In "Autopia", I investigated the signage of the urban landscape, most particularly the billboard. In this project I wished to look beyond the activity of driving and the technology of the car to what Marshall McLuan has referred to as the 'ground' of this cultural 'figure'. I examined the phenomenon of car culture in an urban situation as it is manifested by the huge service environment of roads, oil companies, car lots, filling stations, fast food outlets, and other allied services of manufacturing that are the 'ground' of the car in both the city and on the highway. I wanted to look at the 'ground' around the automobile in order to understand it's cultural impact. For it is the 'ground' of any technology that is the medium that changes everybody, and it is the medium that is the message of the technology, not only the 'figure'.
In these images, shot on 4" X 5" format, the blurred cars reference the ephemeral nature of the environment created by car culture. The urban geography of gasoline stations and car culture is one of constant flux. The phenomenon of place-product-packaging, or the standardization of the products accociated with car culture, has been played out at the scale of the city in profound landscape ephemerality. Corporate territoriality is translated into a drama of business enterprise highly mercurial. Place-product-packaging has been a novel process by which gasoline stations, and then motels and restaurants, were increasingly configured as places of clear social meaning. To these settings, habitual response has been invited from a responsive consuming public. Services have been standardized over space and time. Is this standardized and also transient aspect of car culture and the urban environment that I addressed in this project. It is this aspect of the "Built Environment" that I foregrounded in "Autopia".
In my most recent project, "Oases: Urban Sanctuaries", I have shifted my focus to the urban park which is also a manmade phenomenon, created as a respite from the hectic "overload" of the urban terrain. These spaces function in an ambiguous territory between nature and culture. They are highly manicured and cultivated but offer the urban subject a simulated experience of an idyllic nature. City parks also exemplify the porous nature of the interface between private and public places. The individual is required to share his or her experience of the space with a community at large, the notion of privacy being one that is constantly being negotiated and must necessarily shift to a communal experience. Urban spaces generally have the ability to structure these kinds of social identities and have the ability to delimit fixed and shifting personal boundaries within that sphere. These boundaries are constantly in flux and changing. They are ephemeral. These works explore the dichotomies between flux and permanence, private and public, and also the tenuous ballance between "nature and culture".
The images for " Oases", like my previous work, are shot on 4" X 5" format transparencies. Several images have been scanned and then assembled with Photoshop. This technique emphasizes the shifting of spaces and time within the image and the reconsideration of the photograph's authority as a single moment in space and time.