James Verdon

Self remembering: Optimal viewing distance
Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne

James Verdon's imagery in his exhibition, Self Remembering–Optimal Viewing Distance, has the reassuring slickness of graphic design. It offers itself up as beautiful and profound, resonant with the sepia tones of memory. It readily seduces, is both familiar and disturbing. The seductive nature of Verdon's imagery is further heightened by an urgency of speech, by fragments of dialogue sampled from Hollywood movies, which overlay the images and contribute to the overall sense of meaningful narrative–it resembles closely the techniques and mystique of expensive advertising. If, however, you are looking to understand Verdon's work through his promiscuous imagery and smart rhetoric then you are looking in the wrong place. The 'meaning' of the work is not located here but within the techniques of display, the technology itself and the viewing practices of the audience.

Verdon's work investigates the lack of neutrality of the interface. Rather than viewing the technology of his artmaking merely as a cipher he argues that the "apparatus is as important as the content". In his work this relationship is explored with calculated sophistication. Optimal Viewing Distance is the forth show in Verdon's Self Remembering series, all of which have focused on the audiences' interface with technology. In Optimal Viewing Distance the key to the interface is a hopscotch game drawn on the ground. The importance of this chalk outline is at first overshadowed by the exhibition's more obvious 'content'–a video sequence displayed on a plasma screen and a series of ink jet prints on x-ray film, both of which feature Verdon's slick panacea of nostalgia. Yet both of these pieces are linked to the hopscotch game. It is in fact only possible to view the ink jet prints by illuminating them through carrying out the correct sequence on the hopscotch interface. This viewing, however, is not straightforward as the space has been created to ensure that although you are rewarded with the knowledge that you can elicit a response this process is governed by an exaggeration of the temporal and spatial gap that characterises the concept of telaesthesia. Telaesthesia (to work by remote sensation) forms a part of Verdon's language for exploring the synchronicity of the technologies of viewing with those of narrative practices in viewing. In Self Remembering he uses the idea of telaesthesia to characterise both the technologies of electronic viewing screens as re-presentational technology and the nature of memory itself.