Ambient Photo

Luther Konadu

July 6 — August 4, 2018

In conjunction with this exhibition, Konadu has curated a screening of Charles Burnett’s film, Killer of Sheep and the short, Several Friends, on Thursday, July 26 at 7PM at Globe Cinema (617 8 Ave SW). Tickets to this screening are $12 at the door and on Eventbrite, or $10 at the door with a valid student ID. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time here. Thank you to the Globe for their generous support of this program!

Exhibition Description

Luther Konadu’s photographic processes and experiments ultimately seek to expand ways of viewing.  As part of one continuous documentary series, Konadu’s work considers a discursive approach to self-portraiture; one that is less linked to autobiography but rather to a diverging collective identity. Konadu’s work acknowledges the legacies of social documentary photography as an interpretive site for constructing narratives that counter prevailing and dominant ones. Konadu is interested in how he can create an alternate past in order to imagine a different future of self. The resulting fragment images highlight Konadu’s close community of family of friends in his personal studio as they create a document of self on their own terms.

Exhibition Text / Purple Prose

Position. Colour,

angle, light. Moved

No logos. Just youth

Pride and Cool

A pose in the coup of age. Once

power and dust shape the earth

On sticky notes in blue, pink and in green

History will snap flat. Culture will be held!

The tune carrying the curtain

shut. With brass will blast

In the clasp of pressure. Lights

will strobe. Released and whole

Around 19 BCE, the poet Horace coined the often quoted phrase: “as is painting, so is poetry.” A modern equivalent could substitute painting for the ubiquitous pictorial frame of the internet, “as is the internet, so is poetry”. A twentieth-century equivalent could have been something like, “as was photography, so too, was poetry.” Assuming the internet took up where photography left off—is poetry really a thing that can endure being paralleled to painting, photography, and the internet?

Many useless parallel analogies can be drawn between the structure of a poems’ lines, its rhythmic energy, and the arches of technical prowess one can display while working in an old darkroom. Black and white tonality and subtractive colour systems worked like the large family of liquid semivowels and aspirate and mute consonant sounds that paved the way for free verse. I suppose the process of applying skill in framing a thought or an image, is also comparable to knowing html, or any other markup language or coding cypher used to make the world today.

Proficiency is the overlord. After all, what is language if not a proficiency machine? Horace addressed our need to decorate the world with words—a purple patch he called it. What we now call purple prose. Horace preferred a more unified poetic code; one that called for technique and power, for ingenuity—as the most valuable properties demanded from a poet.[1]

Like phantom limbs, the technologies for writing and making imagery have taken a hold of us as much and as quickly as we have let them. When we don’t have our devices nearby we still feel them somatically, grotesquely shaping our movements and thoughts. And while technical expertise does not guarantee originality or an artist’s capacity to make nuanced work, folding the need for virtuosity in (folding the use we give to equipment along with the meat of our means for making the world) allows these somatic roams to resolve our approach to artistic production. Through a fold we meet the needs of the spirit in a healthy or therapeutic way because a fold highlights ambivalence as resolve.

I look at Luther Konadu’s photographs on the screen of a 10-year old laptop. The machine itself only days away from failure, each key pushed slowly leading to dilapidation. Konadu’s images in contrast appear bright and luminescent and sometimes, because of the device’s instability, they emerge a crumbled mix of digital pixels. Under these conditions I slowly preview his work. The computer’s existence is, reasonably, no longer a threat to me, but its potential break would disrupt my flow of communication. I stare out the window. Bells ring outside from an ambulatory ice cream vendor. Every afternoon he walks by pigeon songs, children and adults. He walks past their errors. Every afternoon stops at the margins. A page, a park, a teenager noodling on an electric guitar wearing a crumpled leather jacket and a punk band’s t-shirt. What and who is it that looks at any of these images? The real and the screened? The crumbling objects, other people, the park, a dog’s bark, my gaze, Southern California, mild weather, good light. I write:

On the screen young adult faces stare into the lens of a camera in a photographic studio. On the screen, it is winter or fall in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The kids are clothed in sweatshirts and turtlenecks. Warmed. The photographs are printed cheaply on laserjets, or so I am told. The biggest luxury the reader will have over me will be the ability to see the texture of the paper and the ink on the page, that inherent fragility that is made of material. The viewer will have the ability to linger on the analogue and I don’t mean analogue in the sense of film vs. digital, but in the sense of real life vs. live streamed. They will get to see how these objects and images take presence in a shared plane of space while all I get is their phantom stream.

Walking sense into pleasure in the Epistles to the Pisos Horace wrote, “If a painter should wish to unite a horse’s neck to a human head, and spread a variety of plumage over limbs [of different animals] taken from every part [of nature], so that what is a beautiful woman in the upper part terminates unsightly in an ugly fish below; could you, my friends, refrain from laughter, were you admitted to such a sight. Believe, ye Pisos, the book will be perfectly like such a picture, the ideas of which, like a sick man’s dreams, are all vain and fictitious: so that neither head nor foot can correspond to any one form.”[2] Konadu’s images do not respond to a singular form either. The photographs fracture the faces they depict, those of Konadu’s friends and relations, across multiple pages. The images bend or at least slightly skew elbows, wrists and thoughts over xeroxes. While Horace might have frowned at the incongruous, for us, it is a way of life. Astray, we make sense! Anything else doesn’t. It could also be said that the complex composition process behind these images imitates the fragmentation or content divisibility of an open tab on a web page, yet Konadu’s work is not made for the screen. It is printed on paper, lays on a table top with post-its and notes penciled over it. In these artworks, what remains below or above the fold, or edge of each image is the spatial element with which Konadu is concerned and where the elegance of his approach is best perceived. The surface space where meaning, determination, significance and readability blend.

“My eye, myself and my sock over many surfaces.” “There is one single lens, but the printing is repercussive.” The imagined voice heard here is of the artist’s friend explaining Konadu’s process to me. Let’s call them X. Their voice anticipates how the photographs might look in a gallery, edited and display-ready, instead of archived as they are in the digital folder I face. Across the opened window, on the screen, the works read as performative. My voice blends with X’s. As I write, I too become an extension of Konadu’s direction, “write from a personal stance,” he told me. What exactly does the personal get reduced to over text? What does it come to be, when you only see delayed images of each other? Online, awkward gestures frozen on a screen? A giggle or an interlude of gags between more serious conversation.

K, T and P.

Mute sounds.

Konadu’s images, like this text, aim to avoid reduction but they cannot do without. Even as we know we are more than the geographical contingency of the place from where we stand or from whence we came. When we pose, when we sit, when we write, when we speak, when our semblance is frozen on a screen, when we go take a leak, we are not singular forms. We are not duplications either, nor reproductions, not strangers, nor passersby, although that immaterial content of relation is what—in these images—the photographic limbo attempts when in that fraction of a second light hits a sensor or a piece of film. That irreducible amount of time it takes for ink to hit the page, or for a single letter of the alphabet to appear when I type, that is the aura and the allure of image-framing. Reduction, how the stranger becomes familiar, is the heavily relied-upon approach of the powerful. Reduction is also the equally unexpected apparition to which we as artists and subjects, as writers and objects-to-be, are exposed and into which we are immersed. Take in power.

Looking is always a more pregnant address than any description of the sight-seen claims. It grows over time. It is birthed into further expression. Looking not only demands a surface and a platform from which the viewer stands to see, a pair of eyes. It also arrests the surface and the platform suspending any decisions made by the artist, the writer or the poet, into the phenomenology of the visible, into its vision. In this way, what was once urgent is now frozen, what was once status quo is now reflection, what was once there, is now faded and aided by the memory of what is visibly in its place. What was once life is now stream. What gels, gets replicated in an image and distressed by the immediacy of singular but scopic technocratic readings. Readings that the stream and the fold fracture, break and multiply. Afterall, how many immaterial mutations can a single picture support? If we were to understand subject as self, then these images and their fracturing would all be portraits of Luther Konadu. The dominating content in them being self-expression.

Normal Heights, San Diego, May 2018

Works Cited

[1] Laird, Andre, “The Ars Poetica” from The Cambridge Companion to Horace, University Press, Cambridge, England: 2007. 134-135

[2] Smart, C., “Ars Poetica: Prose” from Horace: Complete Works, Delphi Classics, East Sussex, United Kingdom, 2013.

Blakeney, Henry Edward, Horace and the Art of Poetry, Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, New York: 1970. 43

-Fabiola Carranza


Luther Konadu is an emerging writer and an image-maker. He’s also a content contributor for the online publication Public Parking. A collaborative project for highlighting the working practices of emerging creatives. His studio activities are project-based and realized through photographic print media and painting processes. He acknowledges the legacies of these mediums as interpretive sites for generating new conventions and expanding fixed narratives. Konadu currently lives and works on Treaty One Territory, the stolen lands of the Anishinaabe, Métis, Cree, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations.
Fabiola Carranza is a Costa Rican/Canadian artist living in Southern California. Her artwork incorporates or adapts text, video and readily available sculptural materials to explore their provisional political potential. Carranza’s work reflects on the historical present by blending visual, cultural and personal phenomena. Carranza holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia and a BFA from Emily Carr University. Recent projects include a solo exhibition at Espacio Deslave in Tijuana, México; inclusion in Fulhame’s Map at Nanaimo Art Gallery and the completion of residencies at Plug-In Institute in Winnipeg, Hospitalfield in Scotland, and SOMA in México. Carranza will start a PhD program at the University of California, San Diego in September.

Thank you to our public program sponsor: