Panopticon, which will be up at BMG through May 23, refers to a prison structure which allows unknown observation of those being watched. The works in this 2006 series, shot with now-extinct Polaroid Type 55 film and transformed via traditional silver gelatin prints, feels like a cousin to the slow pans and contemporary interviews that made Claude Lanzmann’s 1985 masterpiece, Shoah. They have that film’s same attention to the act of witnessing, to the disparity between the world’s warm beauty and our cold knowledge of what history tells us about how far we can slip from nature’s more beneficent embrace.
“I approached this series as I have all others: with the intention to investigate, or call attention to, how identity shifts and changes when catalyzed by experience, and more dramatically, trauma,” Kaufman’s Artist Statement for Panopticon. “For this project, I again was drawn to the landscape as muse, but uncharacteristically chose one loaded with meaning, burdened with a history so cumbersome that I initially was afraid to pursue it.”
Her printing technique incorporates chemical glitches and happenstance, lending everything a sense of age, or accidental exegesis. The result lends everything automatic mystery, then compounded with each piece’s connotations and history.
“The subject matter is the grounds of Nazi concentration camps,” that statement goes on. “Far from being documentary in nature, these photographs are decontextualized excerpts through which I sought to dispose of most recognizable clues to the specific places, and focus on the surrounding, and surviving, environments in order to recast them as sites for new meaning. The resulting images, mutated through a technical process that relies on decay as an operative force, do suggest trauma, but don’t require a reaction that encompasses a response to iconic horror. Instead, I make this work in the hope of inspiring a dialogue between the viewer and imagery that fuses indeterminate disturbance with transcendent beauty.”
Kaufman received her BA from Yale University and her MFA from Massachusetts College of Art, and has work in numerous permanent collections, exhibitions and publications.
Panopticon will be on display through May 23. Regular gallery hours are Monday and Friday 12:00 to 5:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, or other times by appointment. Gallerie BMG is at 12 Tannery Brook Road. For further information, call 679-0027 or visit www.galeriebmg.com.++