Alex Prager’s latest exhibition, entitled Compulsion, prefixes yet another post onto postmodernism. This collection of photographs seeks to explore subversive narratives, voyeuristic behaviour and the construction of disaster scenes through the mass mediums that dominate the contemporary world. Peculiar situations, for the most part relatively devoid of people, are each accompanied by detailed close ups of eyes, gazing out at the viewer and scene in order to constitute a voyeuristic and emotional human presence. Heavily loaded with meaning, these scenes address the manner in which people relate to such disaster scenes through the distorting lens of the media. A woman hanging from a telegraph post is subject to the gaze of a crowd, only the shadows of which are accessible to the viewer and beside it, this gaze is extended beyond the bounds of the photograph and into the space of the gallery.
Referencing cinema, photography and the media based fabric that makes up our postmodern ‘hyperreality,’ these images are reminiscent of the disassociated manner in which we now face events. The preceding passage of time that would have constituted each of these scenes is absent, presenting fragments of narratives, independent and now subject to altered contextualisation upon each viewing. Such disassociation ensures that the viewer is as much a part of the images as its content, and you are reminded of this by the glaring surveillance of the lines of sight that extended from each accompanying eye. There is a somewhat surrealist and Lynchian dimension to these pieces as scenes estranged from reality are presented alongside disembodied conveyers of emotion, evoking an uncertain and uncanny apprehension of what might be occurring in each image.
The accompanying film, Le Petite Mort, starring Judith Godrèche continues this uncanny theme in examining the mystery of death through the boundaries of the human body. Facing the connections between death and love, this film suggests that both are “cut from the same cloth – the former a grand exit, and the latter a slow escape.”
Alex Prager’s exhibition continues the self-referential and self-reflexive practices of postmodern conceptual photography through playing with and addressing the history of representation. Viewers of these photos become as dissociated from the scenes as the eyes that accompany them, reminding us each time that less and less do we see reality without the mediation of forms of representation.
Toby Austin Locke
Compulsion will be at the Michael Hoppen Gallery from 20th April – 26th May 2012