TOMMY MINTZ Mind the Gap/Mine the Gaps
Hudson Guild Gallery | February 21 – April 9, 2013
The detection of a spirit presence lies at the heart of many current TV shows claiming to search for the paranormal. Mind the Gap/Mine the Gaps, Tommy Mintz’s current exhibition of photography, does the reverse. It discovers and records the living as they pass through public spaces, filling rooms, corridors, and streets with superfluous characters, beings that instead of haunting a specific location, are merely caught in transit.
With their arrivals and departures, Mintz’s cast of thousands (often the same person over and over) comes to define his locations of surveillance as much as a single ghost’s narrative defines a creepy demesne or opera house. The Automated Digital Photo Collage (A.D.P.C.) is a close cousin of the closed circuit television, albeit one that has gone to art school and developed a refined aesthetic sense. The entry path to the Hudson Guild Gallery, as well as the interior of the gallery itself have been rigged with webcams that take pictures every few seconds. Mintz has developed a program that detects differences in the collected images, and where a difference is found, the program collages a new image over an old one. These images are displayed on the screen and every 36th collage is printed out. Each day’s prints are pasted up on the walls of the gallery.
Whether it’s giggling cake-covered children at a 4 year-olds’ birthday party or the seemingly infinite stream of tourists pausing to take snaps of the “Mona Lisa”, the vast bulk of photography is concerned with recording the fact that “I was here.” Mintz has, as a roving photographer, made a career out of documenting people unawares while they take part in various social gatherings, catching his subjects uncomposed. This is nothing new in photography; the novel angle of Mintz’s approach is to highlight the locus genii of the space his A.D.P.C. inhabits. The machine records the stream of subjects to such an extent that every space, no matter how empty it seems on a regular basis, fills up over time like the great Marx Brothers stateroom scene in A Night at The Opera.
The A.D.P.C. is also a very problematic machine; it cuts to the fears we have of the worst things machines are capable of. It alludes to the ever rising presence of CCTV, engaging in the torturous and cruel game of tracking and recording us whether we like it or not, and then cheerily churns out a print to boot. Mintz has long been fascinated by the shrinking sense of privacy that is a direct result of the internet and information sharing: to be sure, his interest lies in the willing exchange of images among consenting adults, but as his brilliant little machine aptly proves, new technology and openness just as easily enable a darker side.
Formalistically, the most intriguing result born out of Mintz’s removal of the active photographer is the bizarre and alien hand at work composing the photo collages. Like a Geiger counter registering a ghostly presence through a series of clicks, the A.D.P.C. knows we are there in the gallery, but it doesn’t know what we are. As the figures in the collage thicken in number, hybrid creatures appear that a human editor would have removed or adjusted. Some of the players in this everyday drama develop wings and tails, others gaping holes in their abdomens or faces. These secret hidden presences have cast off their human forms in a way far more H. P. Lovecraft than cable TV.
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WILLIAM CORWIN is a sculptor and curator based in New York City. His work has been reviewed in the Brooklyn Rail, ARTnews, Sculpture Magazine, Artcritical, and Art Monthly. In 2016, he organized I Cyborg at the Gazelli Art House in London. He currently teaches with the Meet the Met program at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and hosts a program on Clocktower Radio.