Visual Art Currently Hanging
posted by July 28 at 11:41 AMon
Mark Soo’s That’s That’s Alright Alright Mama Mama (2008); two C-prints, 3D glasses, angled wall; each print 71 by 93 inches
There are so many doubles going on here that I hardly know where to begin. But I’ll start with the double that’s affecting you right now, but is not really a part of the original work—the fact that you’re looking at a JPEG copy of the original installation. The original installation is meant to be looked at with 3D glasses. If you have a pair handy, try them on these JPEGs, but I don’t think it will work, and I’m assuming that most of you don’t have 3D glasses at the ready. The reason I say this is not “really” part of the original work is that it sort of is: you can get a similar effect if you simply walk into the room where these are installed (in Western Bridge, by themselves in the cozy upstairs gallery) and don’t put on the 3D glasses that Western Bridge provides. It gives you a headache after a bit.
What you’re looking at are two stereographic photographs, meaning that each photograph is taken from two slightly different positions, mimicking the separation of the human eyes before the brain resolves a view into a three-dimensional whole. So each image is a double. In addition, as you can see here, the two large photographs are mounted on the two halves of a slightly convex wall. The two shots that go into each image are taken from a short distance apart; the two resulting final images are taken from positions about nine feet apart. That’s the technical breakdown of what you’re seeing.
I barely understood any of that when I was first standing in front of these. What I saw was an empty recording studio clearly taken out of time—that old technology!—and rendered as though it were right there, in the room with me. I kept trying to find ways to peer past the booth and into the soundproof chamber, to look “through” the framed glass pictured inside the framed glass that contains the photographs themselves (both sets of frames are white and look similar, in another doubling). Who was the musician? What was the sound like? It felt like if I could just lean the right way, I’d get a glimpse at what was “back” there.
The title is a clue, although I wouldn’t have gotten it. That’s That’s Alright Alright Mama Mama is clearly a reference to all the doubling, but split down into “That’s Alright Mama,” it’s the name of Elvis Presley’s first single. That puts me in mind of another, classic, double: Warhol’s Double Elvis, surely known to the Vancouver artist who made this piece, Mark Soo.
The “original” in this case doesn’t exist. There are no photographs of Sun Studios in Memphis during that time in 1954 when Elvis Presley made his appearance there. Nobody thought to shoot what they didn’t know would become history, but later, people remembered it in writing. Soo used those written accounts to recreate the studio, actually building it himself, and then taking the photographs of it. It’s an interpretation of an interpretation, forever removed from its source, and yet its three-dimensionality aches toward realness just as the image makes you ache toward seeing and experiencing what’s behind that window. The ache is what I like.