My research combines traditional photographic techniques with contemporary digital processes, performance, and installation. With the support of Digital Matters, I am working on a new video piece that requires specialized equipment and production assistants. The new piece is an extension from my ongoing body of work, Marked.
The west desert, located outside of Salt Lake City, is the land that I-80 runs through, driving from Chicago to San Francisco. The west desert is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is referred to as “public lands.” These lands are often used for target practice, off-road vehicles, hiking, and other outdoor activities. While these lands are theoretically free to use, significant acreage is leased to private extraction companies and cattle ranchers, both of which have an ecological impact on the land. The west desert is also home to the Dugway Proving Ground, a US military-owned testing site for biological and chemical weapons. The landscape is a trope represented through many photographic surveys. It is inextricably linked to a deep fascination with the American West, which can be seen through westward expansion, cowboy fantasies, and the desire to secure resources - all of which used images as a form of propaganda. These photographs sought to document, aestheticize, and colonize the lands viewed through the camera’s lens. The new video piece (title TBD) references various sites in the west desert to critique contradictions regarding individual rights, access, land use, and their relationship to capitalism, manifest destiny, and power.
There have been several challenges throughout the production of this piece, one of which has been learning to use the new equipment that allows me to create more dynamic video footage. The other challenge has been the evolving conceptual framework of the project. This obstacle has presented me with more questions than answers, which is exciting as I begin to work on editing and sequencing the footage.
During my second semester at the U, I was introduced to the Digital Matters team through a Research Instrumentation Fund - Faculty grant I was writing. I was able to visit the Digital Matters space and speak with several staff members. I was immediately welcomed and felt a sense of community. The grant that I was awarded, the Exhibition & Performance Grant, fits well within my academic and creative pursuits. When I applied for this grant, I had many obstacles in terms of what I was able to produce with the equipment and support I had. The Digital Matters Grant allowed me the opportunity to remove those obstacles and create a piece that I had previously been unable to create.
It’s been exciting to be able to execute this new piece to the full extent of its potential. The grant has allowed me to physically realize the work that I had previously only conceptualized. The access to the necessary equipment and resources to make this video work has also required me to address additional conceptual concerns that wouldn't have otherwise come up. I have also had the opportunity to learn how to use new high-tech video equipment, which I hope will extend into my teaching practice.
I would tell potential applicants to be specific about their ideas, goals, and what they feel the Digital Matters Grant can offer them. The process to apply is relatively straightforward and the staff is incredibly helpful in providing feedback. I would also say if you applied once and don’t receive the funding, tailor your application, make it more specific, and submit it again.
There are many significant issues surrounding digital scholarship within the field of visual art. Specifically, regarding images, there are continuing questions about the uses and abuses of images for political and capital propaganda. Photography is a medium that possesses an air of objectivity or indexicality that we know to be false or, at best, dubious. This coupled with advancing digital technologies, such as 3D rendered images, convolutional neural networks, and deepfake suggests that not only is our understanding of images changing but our ability to accurately read and understand images needs to rapidly evolve.
The new video piece (title TBD) references various sites in the west desert to critique contradictions regarding individual rights, access, land use, and their relationship to capitalism, manifest destiny, and power.–Jaclyn Wright, Spring 2021 Exhibition & Performance DM Faculty Grantee