Now and Then
Catalog Essay 2006
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
— T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”
Nothing sorts out memories from ordinary moments. Later on they do claim remembrance when they show their scars.
— Narrator, “le jettée”
Greetings from LA #1-10, immediately places us in the receivership of some strange time-travel postcard. And, as when we receive postcards from places we have also been (today I found one in my kitchen from Tulum), the pang of recognition moves swiftly from the image at hand, to thoughts of the person who has sent us the card, flits quickly to our own experiences in those places depicted, perhaps to the music we listened to while there, the books we read, the people we met, and then back and forth over all of this many many times. Motion is such an essential part of George Porcari’s photography – it is impossible to be still as you look at his work – that all of this movement, time travel included, is not a surprise. Yet that the cheery title of this series of work carries such an air of the melancholic (though not nostalgia, certainly not for the good old days - for LA in the 70’s was not such an interesting place) does catch us off guard. Is it that Porcari is a transplant, as so many of us here are, and that Greetings carries in its off-hand cheeriness, which refuses to proclaim anything, some of the underlying weight of the alien eye observing a strange land? We can only imagine that eye’s immeasurable leap. In ‘63, the decade before the pictures were taken, George, the boy, traveled from Lima to Los Angeles. We all know the shock of such change, the difficulty the mind has in grasping those shifts, magnified when there is no going back. And we image Davos Hanich, the protagonist of le jettée lying on the table under mad scientist hands desperate but unable to run to his beloved, to glimpse her as he left her, in a museum, one more time… Because that alien eye reminds us in its very otherness that for all of us there has always been something, or someone, left behind.
On the tenth day, images begin to ooze, like confessions.
— le jetée
By Porcari’s tenth image in this series we feel the ooze, and we hear the confessional susurrations to (perhaps) a pretty cousin left behind. Greetings… the image proclaims, this is what I’ve left for. This odd expansive place, is where I am.
It is remarkable in looking at these photographs that so much of what would come to be George’s lexicon is already present. It seems as if, after thirty years of looking and thinking about looking, he has ended up close to where he began. Past and present and future all coming together here in this showing of old and current work, at one time. The reflections are astounding. The shots through mirrors. The strange framing, so much confusion, so many edges, the fragments caught carrying the weight of all that is cut off, all that is left unsaid.
And in looking at these images from the 70s and the 00s we are forced to think of reflexivity, the subject dismantled into so many viewings that the point of a point, of a center, becomes moot. In between these 70s pictures and the photography of the last ten years, Porcari went through a period of making images that communicated motion in a much more literal way. This made sense; he is a man obsessed by film; a man who loves to read. He had to wrestle with motion, with the variable point of view. Experiment with different ways of bringing these qualities into his work. In the eighties and early nineties he made long strips of images, some consisting of as many as sixty photographs mounted together on steel. More clearly filmic, you have to move between each photograph, make sense of the placement somehow. There are pangs of recognition there too, for he used many appropriated images, from film, books, magazines, others’ personal caches, as well as his own private photos, snapshots of friends or family. And the familiarity of certain shots (is that the rear-view mirror from Alice in the Cities? the view out the car window from Solaris? Glenn Gould’s hand caught floating in mid-air? Jorge as Hamlet, holding a skull?) serves to confuse our search for meaning further. Though there is a sense of possibility mixed with regret in these long strips… for all of these images exist in a present, the present of the work, a desire for cohesion, perhaps, enacted there.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden
— T.S. Eliot
He has since gone back to single image photography, though through the reflections (in windshields, mirrors, windows) he implies the same kind of motion, restlessly shifting point of view, and this motion, of course, carries the weight of time. The same thing in tiny variations, like Gertrude Stein. Tremulous like Walter Pater or Virginia Woolf, the boundaries between the objects in the frame slipping into each other, sometimes becoming so confused that you don’t know where the center is, to imply something larger than the thing itself. There is no me any longer, I’ve been shattered and re-arranged, de-centered and thrown into process, my eye not able to light for more than a few seconds on anything, and yet I send you greetings, these images proclaim, with my shifting questioning eye. And in searching the surface we join in, are implicated, in that falsely easy and jocular note to that pretty cousin left behind.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present
— T.S Eliot
In le jetée the moment of knowledge, the moment of merging time is also the moment of death. It is as if, Chris Marker proclaims, the movement is the point, the search, the attempt at making sense. It is not Meaning, but the search for meaning that makes us who we are. And though memory is a scar, it is a scar that we are forever compelled to run to as well as from.
This was the aim of the experiments: to send emissaries into Time, to summon the Past and Future to the aid of the Present
— le jetée