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13 Apr 2016

Hugh Scott-Douglas at Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Japan

Hugh Scott-Douglas,'Untitled',2016

Hugh Scott-Douglas
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, JAPAN


Kazuhiro Yamamoto, Curator

Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts
4-2-7 Sakura,Utsunomiya, Tochigi

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The museum is pleased to announce a full-scale exhibition of new work by Hugh Scott-Douglas (b. 1988 Cambridge, UK; currently lives and works in NY). This presentation continues Scott-Douglas’ concerns towards notions of identity and value in specific consideration of the faculty of an image. Established through the perspectives of two distinct bodies of work, diverging outputs of surplus and mechanical modes of production are implicated within a framework that establishes the permeability of an image in today’s new media.

Recalling historical manifestations of the image, from the birth of painting to the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, the first series is presented in the form of slide works originally conceived from 2012 to 2013:

For these works Scott-Douglas purchased the archive of 35mm trailer footage from a movie theater that was going out of business. In a moment when analog media is becoming an increasingly rarefied bird these works already position themselves as a subject with an eroding identity. The trailer - of particular interest for its economic status- is a media form that sustains itself as a promissory note. It seeks to establish itself as a guarantor for its big brother - the feature. The trailer, in effect, somehow protects the investment that is the feature.

Within this series, the trailer footage is abstracted twice: once in a physical sense through the splicing and collage of the material; and a second time in the way that it disrupts the cohesive narrative that would otherwise be communicated through its display. Formally, the lengths of 35mm film are sliced to allow for their installation in hand-assembled slide trays. These spliced sections are combined with photographic negatives that have been used in the production of alternative works within the studio practice i.e. the cyanotypes. Scott-Douglas is effectively imparting a new function and purpose to a readily available resource that already exists within the studio. In turn, the use of air is transmitted and transformed into the accompanying photographs, providing the collages with a new narrative structure as they are assembled into the 60-tray slide holder from which they were ultimately played from.

Expanding on an image’s intent and its ability to be transmitted through a layered existence involving continuously transformable systems of circulation, production, consumption and disposal, Scott-Douglas explores in the second group of works a traditional process termed “shashin abura-e”:

Taking the established practice of shashin abura-e or "photographic oil-paintings”[1] as the point of departure, Scott-Douglas employs this technique in an effort to acknowledge the shortcomings that existed within the technology’s constant and perennial efforts to catalog identity. The paper support of a photograph was first pulled away and oil paints were then applied to the remaining emulsion. An inability of the medium to accurately create an image that can empirically depict the subject it seeks to capture is exposed. The affect and “naturalization” of the image comes about through a physical intervention with the media (not unlike the collage approach being used in the slide works or a reverse of the approach that is used in the screen ton works.)

With this in mind, Scott-Douglas aims to use an emerging technology to the same end while employing a method of photography that would emit similar data - one that falls short of an effective method of cataloging the subject. In order to convey this, Scott-Douglas has, for the first time, employed a 3d-survey scanner. The scanner has always been an active component within his work, being used time and time again as my camera. With its physical relationship to the subject it is capturing, I feel as though it becomes the most objective form of photography that is available to us, as it completely removes any environmental influence from the image.

For these works, the image becomes even more objectified. The images here exist as clouds of data. Maps of the physical are generated to give the metrics of their form without any of their affect information. Scott-Douglas has printed these images onto the face of supports called dunnage bags, a tool used in the process of commercial shipping. These dunnage bags use air - a surplus material - to fill the space around commodities as they flow through the world. They act as a form of insurance against damage while in transit while also highlighting the excess that is consumer culture. Before being inflated Scott-Douglas had added powdered oil pigment to the dunnage bag. In the same way the printed content on the face of the bags can be considered “data” the pigment in this form is also “data”. It is pure color - or color without a body. When the bags are inflated, the pigment flys around the internal structure of the bag. The contingencies of the pressurized air filling the bag distribute the color pigment unevenly throughout the internal of the bag. The resulting image becomes one with clear division. It is an image that has both internal and external structure - making it an image which is predicated more in the end on its form and data than as a picture.