Day 4 of the Gran Miniclick Photobook Advent Calendar and one of our guest writers, Alex Norton takes us through one of his pick’s from earlier this year. Sam Laughlin’s ‘Frameworks’ from The Velvet Cell…
The structures we use to house ourselves have been formed for centuries. We cannot survive without a structure, for what? To place our things in, rest our heads or prevent us from getting wet. A space we live in is undeniably important and can dominate and enrich our lives. When a structure is made with someone in mind, a certain market, like most houses and buildings they form an idea and a lifestyle. In Mediterranean climates the heat brings in tourists as they yearn to feel the sunrays on their pale bodies. At times the houses or apartments, nether the less the shelters we have in these scenarios are replicated and repeat themselves over and over. They crop up and dot the land with people that were not from there, nor do they work there or really engage with the culture around them. The permanent tourist is a fascinating subject.
The pictures Sam Laughlin makes are not driven by political arguments, nor do they really interact with the culture around them. Gathering them all together like an ancient archive they take on the form of modern documents within the context of art. Their aesthetic places a plank from one place to another, from one context to another. Repetition, and then repetition occurs once more. They each mark a different stage of production forming the outer shell, the framework if you will. They sketch an idea of home; an idealology we all crave but importantly cannot live without.
In a small publication the series rests comfortably on the thin glossy sheets of paper. It carries the feeling of a brochure to advertise these spaces but there is no description or price lists. The publication is understated and does not really shout for our attention – none of the work does that. It is quiet but heavy. It is objective yet feels like a beautiful craft has taken place. There is nothing grand about the gesture. And it does not need to try to be, for it is quietly brilliant. It doesn’t have any sense of desperation to be seen, only to exist. Whether or not this is purely for the artist is difficult to define but the series doesn’t seek to tell us anything but to make us feel something. There is an uncomfortable balance between objectivity and artistic craft as the work follows orders but disobeys them. It has the spirit of a wild cat with glasses sat down drinking coffee in the morning reading books. It is creative but has a very blunt quality that makes us take note of the work.
I get the feeling if it was misconstrued, as a political project the artist would not be happy. I think, well feel, that the intention is a saturated experience that’s meant to wrap us into the ideas involved but not quite explain everything. It does not have mystery but it carries a certain feeling that makes us consider our place in the world, even where we might lay our head.
It is difficult to ignore these buildings are incomplete. They lay there at night potentially resting their eyes until work resumes but the wait appears to be long. As the grass grows on the face of the land like an untamed beard these places have a level of neglect. They are not abandoned because they were never inhabited in the first place.
Picked for their prime location they dot themselves around the land, waiting and waiting, waiting and waiting until they give up. They have a different life now.
Much like the structures the publication is in its earliest form. The difference being Sam is slowly building the rest of it over time. The book itself reflects a position in the work where it can reflect the structures. It is transparent, simple and does not really try to sway us here or there for an opinion on why these places are the way they are. They merely admire.
And much like paintings where the twilight stretches its arms across the frame time becomes the final factor. Obsessively matriculated, framed, exposed, focused, considered, scouted and eventually printed it takes on the role of an archive that doesn’t really say anything at all.
I don’t know what I am meant to think about these structures but that isn’t the point of the work. It is a consideration instead and that is what makes it a stroke of genius, not just from an aesthetic standpoint but also from a critical in depth knowledge. This is not to say the research isn’t there, but the facts and figures have been intentionally left out to help prolong the sensation of time passing as we might eventually feel cold and abandoned in the process.
Frameworks is published by The Velvet Cell and available from their website for £10.