This Is Blue
The series “THIS IS BLUE” began as an exploration of visual perception. I was influenced by ideas that were common practice in the era of conceptual art, such as repetition, text, perception, and philosophy. I compare my application of these conceptual ideas to the application that conceptual artists such as Tim Davis and Christian Boltanksi have used and explore what effects these concepts have on the viewer.
In this approach, I took photographs of colored construction paper and left them with minimal information by removing the color. Underneath each of these photographs, I wrote “THIS IS BLUE.” By taking away the color, each photograph became both different and the same, creating a parallel that the viewers must decide for themselves. By stripping the photographs of their characteristics, they are stripped from what the viewers knows to associate with reality. Without having a reality for the viewer to focus on, the photos become representations of ambiguity, guided only by the words “THIS IS BLUE,” and force the viewer to create an interpretation of the images. By forcing the viewer to create their own interpretation, the viewer is forced to think about the concepts behind images themselves and how their thoughts about what they are seeing are guided by the artist’s words. Without any color, the viewer is forced to either believe the artist’s statement that the images are blue or to question reality. Putting the idea of raw concepts and perception into the viewer’s mind leaves the viewer to consider the main ideas underlying conceptual art.
I used the idea of repetition to create a singular voice to guide the viewer through their interpretive process by using identical text on each image. In Christian Boltanksi’s photographic image, 10 Portraits Photographiques de Christian Boltanski, he used text to represent an illusion of truth. By his choice of words, whether fictitious or factual, the viewer is persuaded by the artist to believe that the art is true. Historically, the medium of photography gives imagery a sense of believability. My work follows this example by writing on the image “THIS IS BLUE.” Like Boltanksi, the viewer is persuaded by text to believe that my words are truthful. By stripping away color, leaving the image free of direction, the viewer has no grasp on the actuality of the image, other than my words.
I also used repetition in this project to represent a proposition to the viewer, similar to the way in which Tim Davis utilized this concept. Tim Davis’s series Retail depicts consumerism in American culture by photographing neon fast food signs’ reflections in domestic household windows. Charlotte Cotton, the author of The Photograph as Contemporary Art, commented on the repetitive nature of this series stating, “repetition turns speculation into a proposal, for the repetitive act seems to offer the proof of something.” Davis’s idea is driven by repetition. My work carries this same idea of using repetition to propose a truth to the viewer. However, without providing the image with the visual characteristic that I am asserting is there, I am presenting the viewer with the opportunity to consider what concept that characteristic portrays and whether my proposal is one they choose to accept.
My project also shares an attribute associated with the conceptual era in the 1960’s, a focus on philosophy. The monochromatic images in my project were intended to lack any semblance to emotion. Ironically, they represent the exact opposite. With color and imagery comes emotion and reaction. By stripping away a primary characteristic of the original photographs, their color, my intent was to take away any emotional connection. However, I found that my attempt to strip the photograph of its emotional content actually brought to light a new emotional quality, melancholy. When I look at these colorless photos, I perceive a sadness that takes over. Finding something in nothing is a philosophical way of thinking, and viewers are left to ponder what emotion they perceive from a photograph that is intended to be devoid of emotion.
In my project I present the viewers with the opportunity to draw parallels between my work and the conceptual art movement. The photographic series “THIS IS BLUE” emphasizes key features that have been influenced by conceptual art by leaving the viewer to consider only the core concepts behind what they perceive. By allowing the viewer to create their own interpretation of the reality of these photographs, the viewer can consider the formulation of their own perception and which concepts are influential.