Returning The Negatives

Returning The Negatives: Photo Impressions.

A shared act of redress and closure that looks at failure, appropriation and responsibility between artist, community and commissioner. Fifteen locals in Bao Loc, Vietnam were asked to document everyday things they found important for one month. San Francisco gallery goers, in turn, were enlisted in the respectful act of mailing the negatives back to the picture-takers.

Returning The Negatives was a way to come to terms with the power structure underlying the community art project Shadow Followers was part of. As the artist I opened up my process of finding closure to the visitors of ampersand international arts. By openly declaring my own wrong-doing (committing a white lie) within an art system that is often entrenched with self-interest and egos, I invited the gallery audience to actively engage in a ritual of returning 59 rolls of photo negatives to the actual creators and proprietors in Vietnam.

There is change within the gallery
(the title of the group show inspired by a text of Carl Sagan)

Returning The Negatives

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Wallpaper of 300 photo prints (sized 4" x 6")

Returning The Negatives

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Every column of photos is dedicated to one participant

Returning The Negatives

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Impressions from the daily lives of tea and coffee farmers

Returning The Negatives

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A short description for each photographer

Returning The Negatives

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Waiting to be returned:
59 pre-stamped/addressed envelops with negatives and contact sheets

Returning The Negatives

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Picking a favorite contact sheet...
...and writing a note to the recipient in Vietnam: gallerist Bruno Mauro

Returning The Negatives

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Gallery visitors ensure the safe return of photo negatives

Returning The Negatives

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Signed contact sheets confirm the return of the photo negatives

Returning The Negatives

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The participants become responsibile for mailing the envelope

Returning The Negatives

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How Fast Your World Is Changing
Returning The Negatives was part of How Fast Your World Is Changing, an international group show that took place between March 21 and April 25, 2008 and was curated by Lori Gordon. HFYWIC offered works with a profound interest in the viewer as participant, as well as concept of reciprocation. Harrell Fletcher, Christine Hill, Hope Hilton, Jessica Landsdon, Jennifer Delos Reyes and Markuz Wernli Saito each have a practice invested in connecting with others — for art and life to intersect, inclusive of one another. If the title of the exhibition alludes to the idea of change within the boundaries of the gallery (some of the pieces did evolve over time), it also reflects on our general sense of reality.

ampersand international arts
Founded in 1999, ampersand international arts is a contemporary arts space dedicated to championing and nurturing emerging and mid-career artists and creating a critical conversation around their work. ampersand promotes intercultural dialogue and collaboration between artists, curators, & arts enthusiasts, cultivating an understanding of diverse aesthetic and cultural perspectives.

THANK YOU: LeNgoc Son (project assistant), Nguyen Tan Dat (translations), Phan Chi Mai (translations), MD Dundon (editing), Sadao Kawamura & Dung Tang Tan, Fujifilm (cameras & photo processing), Thomas Sturm (scanning), Marianne Erni, Pro Helvetia — Swiss Council for the Arts; Bruno Mauro. Shadow Followers was part of The Bao Loc Project, curated by Sue Hajdu (albb Saigon), 2007.