words by Justin Somjen & Madison Kilo
"[Apparatus], a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions–in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements." - Foucault, The Confession of the Flesh, 1977.
Photography has historically been defined as the meshing of two things: a flat surface covered in a photosensitive material, and the apparatus needed to filter light onto such material. In lieu of Greenbergian modernism, for an artwork to be successful it must adhere to the stylistic properties of its medium. In art history, this has been used as a language – allowing the physical properties of the medium to connote its apparent inherencies. Placing Light ontologically addresses medium specificity, disregarding the criteria needed for photography to be ’successful’. Instead, the exhibition purposes abstract and peripheral photographic equipment in order to consider photography in an expanded field. Justin Somjen’s interaction with the medium lays not only in its apparatus and light-sensitive materials, but in the materials that store, transport, and protect these apparatus. Nylon quilted camera bags have been deconstructed and reconstructed to create non-functional accessories to wooden panels – mirroring an abstracted lens-apparatus. These parts that make a whole stratify the gallery space, presenting a ‘mesh’ for the spectator that is both illusory and planar. The works allude to the specificity of photography while taking an affective turn towards a Foucaultian ‘depositif’, projecting assembled affects.
Justin Somjen is a photography-based artist practicing in Toronto. Recently graduated from Ryerson’s photography program, his work plays with photography’s inherent characteristics and utilizes them in sculptural compositions. Continually favouring form as a main subject, he retrieves shape, line and formal qualities to manifest in reductive allegories. Convinced that form carries equal historical and cultural weight to content, his work alludes to an array of themes; including minimalism, the instability of photography, media transformation, and hypermodernism.