Recordings #3 (At Sea)
Gelatin silver prints and chromogenic prints
Commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Lazarus said of this work: “Named after one of the photographs found in the installation, Recordings #3 (At Sea) continues my practice of assembling archives that explore the private and public meanings of photographs, as well as the nature of the medium itself. Outstripping simple notions of nostalgia, these found objects evoke images through what I’ve termed ‘snapshot writing’–handwritten inscriptions originally intended for a small, often intimate audience, replaced now by hashtags that immediately become public, performative, and archival acts. This installation asks viewers to engage the photographic imaginary in an era when ubiquitous images often fail to show us something new. It is in the margins of the photographic medium that I find nascent meaning.”
A video produced by SF MoMA about the installation can be viewed here (3:16).
Documentation images by Johnna Arnold
From Expired press release:
Recordings #4 (Burying Stalin) (2006-2019), a site-specific installation by Jason Lazarus, features the annotations inscribed on the verso of found photographs. “From the beginning of photography, handwritten inscriptions were originally intended for a small, often intimate audience,” Lazarus observes, “replaced now by hashtags that immediately become public, performative, and archival acts.” Recordings explores the shifting meaning of personal photographs, laying clues through the scribbled or carefully limned annotations on the versos of images that Lazarus describes as being orphaned, or at sea: a celebrated milestone that has passed, scrapbook residue, names recorded or crossed out, enigmatic doodles, professions of love, propaganda mementos, cryptic observations, an inside joke that will remain a mystery.
Recordings began in 2006 when Lazarus discovered a family photograph. The verso bore an inscription: Tornado 3 mi west of home. Sept 1970 Lacrosse [Kansas]. “This inscription felt epic,” he later recalled, “it was a moment in history when my grandmother, Lavina—whose writing I held in my hand—intersected with a deeper, archetypal, literary, Midwestern unease. The text alone felt more powerful than most of the photographic experiences I’ve had.” Since then, Lazarus has been building the archive from which Recordings #4 is drawn. His installations are often developed from what he considers a “seed image, a first prompt that starts the rhizomatic pathways.” The title comes from a photograph that he encountered on Ebay. Sold by a Russian reseller who described the previous owner as “the heir of an old Moscow doctor,” the Cyrillic inscription on the verso reads, Burying Stalin. It was taken on March 9, 1953, at the State funeral of Stalin.
Lazarus embraces the poetry and content of negative spaces —both the verso text sans image (and what we subjectively imagine), and the negative spaces in the presentation on the wall—an acknowledgment of the personal complexity that comprises each viewer’s experience.