Ghosts in the Machine

When art people talk about “exposing the means of production,” they’re usually diving into some juiced-up academic waters. Karl Marx. Adorno and Horkheimer. Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Ways of Seeing. Ever since the 1930s, armies of critics (and humanities undergrads) have suggested that, as the methods of making art grow ever more modern and ever more slickly technological, art’s ineffable “aura” becomes increasingly threatened. It’s a complex can of worms, to be sure. But usually, concealing the means of production is dastardly; exposing them is righteous.

But for Tucker Hollingsworth, a young and unusually poetic local photographer, exposing the means of production is just that: he wants to show you how his camera works. And he wants to do so with a gorgeousness that will make you swoon.

Noise Print #77, Venus and Jupiter,
Digital photograph
flush on Aluminum

For “Inside the Camera/Noise,” an intriguing new show that opens this Thursday, at the Chowgirls Parlor, Hollingsworth has managed to photograph the internal digital terrain of his camera. Using a technological sleight of hand, he’s able to strip his compositions of any external subject matter, leaving only the grainy, glitch-y—and typically undesirable—color-and-brightness variations known as “image noise.” Think of it as an MRI: you don’t see what the camera’s looking at, only what it’s thinking.

And surprisingly, these internal scans are lovely. Far from cold and bracingly tech-y, the photos—some of which stretch to six feet in height—evoke a handmade, artisanal warmth. Some are moodscapes imbued with Rothko-esque serenity. Some suggest densely woven textiles. They all mirror the tranquil, ambient lighting present in Hollingsworth’s earlier landscapes, some of which also will be on display.

So Hollingsworth’s got the tech angle. He’s got the sheer beauty. And, by working in the shadows of some well-trod cultural theory, he’s also got a hefty conceptual framework to play around with—a braininess bolstered by the fact that veteran St. Paul art critic Mason Riddle has written an essay to accompany the exhibit. Is Hollingsworth refuting the attack on aura-less technological art? Or just finding a pretty way to expose the limits of digital photography?

We’re not sure. But we’re going to have a blast thinking about it.

“Inside the Camera/Noise
Receptions: Thursday, Nov. 1, 7-11 p.m.; and Thursday, Nov. 15, 6-10 p.m.
Chowgirls Parlor, 1224 Second St. NE, Mpls.