Critics’ Picks

Stan Douglas, Pembury Estate, 2017, C-print on Dibond, 59 x 118".

Stan Douglas, Pembury Estate, 2017, C-print on Dibond, 59 x 118".


Stan Douglas

Victoria Miro Gallery | Mayfair
14 St George Street
October 26–December 20, 2017

The digital image file can be an object of a newly assembled and complex truth, an artifact prone to faults and error: Beyond conventional reportage, the postdocumentary photographies of artists have increasingly addressed how a picture might contain a more sophisticated notion of testimony or even verification, while acknowledging the limits and programming of the very same processes.

Stan Douglas’s four-work exhibition provides a two-step take on the image and its relationship to the event. One pair of works present long-term responses to the 2011 London riots, which were quickly characterized by media as acts of “looting” to veil their origins in police violence and racial profiling; the other two are colorful, abstract pictures, made using the coding of the digital file through discrete cosine transform, or DCT.

Mare Street and Pembury Estate (both 2017) show portions of Hackney at the time of the August riots. Aerial views that the artist has captured in high detail are synthesized with collected on-the-ground footage and accounts, to produce large-scale photographs that are simultaneously reconstructions and concrete documents of events. Douglas, akin to the research group Forensic Architecture in using reconstructive mapping to reevaluate an event, reveals that beneath a media reporting—which is prone to quick headlines and opportunistic characterizations—an event leaves traces that can be reassembled and rethought. The DCT abstractions may be less specific or indexical, and they are painterly, but they show how an image is built from the ground up, to act as a reminder us of its constructive, and not extractive, realities. Douglas presents how each and every event requires a viewer who is equally deconstructive, analytical, and willing to probe.