‘Despite the fact that the images we see through instruments are virtual in nature, they show us a great deal about the reality in which we live. At the same time, however, we know that they distort that reality, and we are therefore forced to question or interpret our observations.’
Roddick’s work leads us to recognise that a photograph is not an objective document. As Denis Lawson puts it; “photography always transforms what it describes. That’s the art of photography, to control that transformation.” Roddick’s distortion of the glass to create, in effect, a second camera lens, reminds us that the images we consume do not mechanically capture the world as it ‘really is’. Using background images of fashion retail spaces, the original photograph is transformed and superseded by the creation of a second. Her images pass through a series of physical and virtual lenses; the artist’s eye, camera lens, glass object, the captured image on the screen/s, the printed image and finally the viewers eye. Each lens applies its own filter to the image, adding layers of analogue and digital interpretation that ultimately remind us that “the way we see things is affected by what we know or believe”.
Grounded in this dialogue between observer and image, Roddick’s work considers the relationship between consumer and retailer. Through beautiful distortion, the images consider the fantasy and fetishism of the fashion industry. That the truth of the image is out of reach, unfathomable and altered, considers notions of desire that question commercialisation. Have we come so far in our commodification that we are unable to turn back? Have we contorted our understanding of ‘need’ to the point where it is indistinguishable from ‘want’?
Roddick draws on Baudrillard’s ‘hyperreality’ which argues that “postmodern societies, saturated by media and information technologies, have entered an age of simulation” in which nothing is real. For example, images of a place such as New York have become more realty human experience that the real entity. Roddick plays on ideas of representation and reproduction. We can see the chain store as an endless repetition, a fabrication of reality that mutates and clones itself for every high street. We can consider Baudrillard’s contention that advertising sells more than individual products, instead packaging up a whole entire social system.
Considering our hyperreal excess, Andrew Robinson writes that: “Fascination exists when.. the true is invested with the power of the false, the beautiful with the ugly, or the real with the unreal. It consists of a kind of contemplation of what exists. It escapes from the ultimatum of meaning.” In this way, we can read the distortion and duplication of Roddick’s images as openly considering both the glossy pleasure and the manipulated facade of fashion. Intentionally ambiguous, we are brought back to the intrinsic qualities of the medium; glass is (self) reflective. How do we see ourselves reflected in these images?
By Elizabeth Atherton