Amsterdam-based photographer and artist Max van der Wal is in a constant process of re-examining the nature of photographic materials such as the film negative. Max deconstructs its chemical and physical properties to uncover truth of our image-perception in The Reality of Our Illusions.
Creation and destruction go hand-in-hand in Max’s work — by tampering these negatives, he emphasizes on the inner nature and mechanics of the photographic film, giving people a more nuanced way of seeing film photographs by showing ruptures of layers found underneath. The series is also about Max questioning the limitlessness of the artist’s creative control in a process, a system that “blurs the lines between the method as a tool or as a subject matter”.
In this project, Max placed some negatives into ground vegetable residue and left them for several days — the vegetables already rotting and fungi being formed. The fungal growth started to eat on the film in an unpredictable manner, which yielded interesting results of the decomposition of the film.
“The traces showcase the complex growth of fungi that create a three-dimensional structure out of a flat surface by adding, removing and folding gelatinous layers containing various colors… Film negatives are chemical masterpieces. They consist of gelatinous layers of silver halide and dyes which can be exposed to light and then developed into an array of colors. This intricate world of chemicals is lost once a picture comes to life. The viewer stops seeing a collection of chemicals and starts to see a subject.”
Max also used the mordançage process, also known as bleach-etching, to further reveal the chemical properties of the film. The gelatin is removed from negatives, and especially works more effectively on darker areas of a photo. This effect made some stark ruptured that look like cartographic outlines. In The Reality of Our Illusions, the perfect picture hole something gritty underneath.
These methods further reiterate Max’s point that a complete, developed picture isn’t just the picture, but also has layers and other properties aside from the formed and developed image. He shares:
“The notion that a photograph is merely a collection of small dots placed together, like little blobs of light on a screen. The notion that instruments heard through a recording is just merely a membrane moving back and forth in a specific fashion. The fact that if you zoom in far enough we are only a collection of small particles that never touch, yet still I am unable to pass through a wall. The fact that there is so much importance attached to these material things, which, if you consider them just material, are not related to any of the subjects they depict.”
written by cielsan on 2021-10-03