Leslie Hewitt explores the role of photography in recapturing the past.
She is interested in how much we rely on images to provide memories of personal experience, how collective memory of past events is shaped and preserved, and in how the two overlap, coexist, and inform each other. The exhibition presents a focused look at an artist whose work marks emerging currents in contemporary artistic practice.
The exhibition features Riffs on Real Time (2006–2009), a group of 10 photographs from an ongoing series started in 2002, shown together for the first time. In a recent interview with ICA Associate Curator Randi Hopkins, Hewitt shared some thoughts about her work:
RH: You’ve said that you think about the photograph as an object, as something tangible, and that we have been “completely socialized by Kodak” to think that every important moment should be documented. How would you describe the relationship between memory and the photographic image in your work?
LH: It’s an abstract concept, but the two are linked: memory and the photographic image. A photograph, or at least an analog photograph, is always about the past. It stops time momentarily and then we appreciate it (that moment) from the present tense looking back. I have always found this attribute of the photographic experience intriguing and important to how we perceive time.
RH: In your series Riffs on Real Time, you photograph layered compositions that you have created using, among other things, photographs. Some of these photographs look like family photos or casual snapshots, and some look like they are taken from magazines or newspapers. What do you think about the relationship between the visual language of personal photographs versus our collective understanding of images from the public or shared realm?
LH: It’s related to the notion of collage or even montage, the piecing together of seemingly unrelated material to bring forth a complete and new form. Ideally this “new” form is more expansive then the original material, bringing juxtaposition and perspective into play, pushing the form to address several concepts all at once. I like this form because it allows me to explore the limits of a single photograph, a single perspective.
RH: I’d love to hear your thoughts about showing these 10 works as a group for the first time.
LH: Riffs on Real Time is a durational work. To view the entire series is an amazing opportunity for me. To explore the notion of repetition and dislocation in each photographic image is heightened experientially through the installation; this is optimum.