Almost Blind Like a Camera
“Intelligence is of itself something increate,” reads a line in Hardy Hill’s press text packet. The PDF file is composed of two scans from a book, a bullet pointed list which can be read as a kind of haiku, then a story about misrecognition, projection, and desire followed by one line: “I thought it was a dog”.
For Hill’s solo exhibition at 15 Orient, “Almost Blind Like a Camera” the operative word is thought. The artist exposes how we’re constantly in a state of thinking, a perpetual existence muddied by what one might think, what one should be, while never explicitly asking the person. The essence is more concerned with witnessing, experiencing, and assessing the other’s every move. I feel like I just described the fumbling optics of dating—but then again desire has more unfortunate ways of materializing between two people—when both parties want so badly to write the script of their own lives (and how they’d like to think they're engaging with the other).
On the digital pages of the scanned document, we’re introduced to Roberte, a person who is perceived, experienced, and witnessed. “Between you, me, and a third person, Roberte reproduces within herself her relationship to all three of us; these inwardly reproduced relationships reflect not our own images of her but, instead, the three different images of her we each respectively form of her; a triple relationship to Roberte is constituted in her own spirit: and now she is on in three persons.” The word 'increate' in the first line of the press text means something that’s not yet created. This takes me to the gallery space, where a vitrine centers the second connecting room, and we see a stack of gelatin printed photographs. There must be thirteen or more prints whose fate we’ll never know. Are the images taken and discarded? Or is this staging a gesture of memory, or things we experience but fail to register as moments of meaning-making?
Throughout the gallery we’re exposed to all the tools used to produce the show, including Hill’s hands, the image capturing device itself, and self-portraits. The exhibition features framed lithographs that are made of manufactured heads paired with composed bodies that are posed and placed in various settings: In front of closets, walls, framing windows, standing on shelves, in the refrigerator, and the camera lens Hill uses to document the cutouts themselves.
In the story of Roberte, the concept of 'subjectless consciousness' is brought to the fore and concludes with: “no one ever noticed that I was alone,” which is shocking considering that most of the paper children photographed and produced are in pairs, with the exception of one person—perhaps Hill himself or the child that sits on the lens of the camera positioned in front of the mirror. In “Almost Blind Like a Camera” the idea of being alone yet together at the same time is palpable. —Emmanuel Olunkwa
Hardy Hill, from the series Paper Children, 2021. Gelatin silver print, 8 x 5 inches.