April 27, 2008

Dreams on the Landscape

Martin Weber's photo project, A Map of Latin American Dreams, is build around the terse translations of want written in chalk and positioned in the frame of the photograph. In each image words take their own place in highly staged portraits. They are not merely inscriptions of interiority, the captured character of the subject, but there before us as writing, as something removed, outside, the very force that prompts the scene represented.

The theatrical "drama" of Weber's images comes from these characters of chalk. The characters are two-fold. There is the writing itself, the markings that carry the message -- like "My brother dreams of studying music" (above) and "to have friends" (below). At first glance we assume the message reflects the character's inner desires, their confessional exposure of drives and needs. Staring, seeing more and more, and then less and less, there is the uncanny confusion of where to find the "author" of such a message. What scripting has prompted this scene, this position of the body? What mode of word that has driven history's wreckage (neoliberalism, deindustrialization, free market) also stained the very language -- an idea shared by both Eliot and Celan -- of dreams?

And so the dreamer in Weber's staging is also a character who has been written within in the words of inherited circumstance.

The language in the lush anti-realism of Weber's photographs is that which comes after the dream; an articulation of what has vanished as feeling and remains and now appears not only as an idealization of the wish, a reformation of the dream's content, but as a cue for further action.

Of course the camera, which would have stilled any movement he meant to imply, captures Weber's aesthetic of unrelenting stillness. He is ensuring that the dominant feeling is one of being suspended, caught along a threshold or border of compulsions, memories, living with and against the blood-work of history, language, and self.

(Above, in the picture made along the Mexico/US divide, the dream is "Affection." Here the more universal sense of displacement, and the dream to have land).