Language, in the hands of Nina Katchadourian, instructs like a map drawn from memory. Weaving through her associations yields a visual scavenger hunt, and getting lost is the aim. These thrills begin early in Uncommon Denominator, the artists engagement at the Morgan Library & Museum where Katchadourian has placed a vast array of artifacts from the museums collection alongside her familys heirlooms and her own works of art.
“Photographs really are experience captured,” writes Susan Sontag in On Photography. The camera’s appropriation of living moments, freezing them as images, “feels like knowledge—and, therefore, like power.” When still images are extracted, they are dissociated from their context and, over time, distill the events they represent.
The painting hangs in waiting. A woman’s seated body, snug within the frame, is cropped to reveal only a neck, torso, and arms that support her upper body in repose.
Theophrastus is thought to be the first person to send a message in a bottle out to sea. In 310 BCE, in an attempt to prove the water in the Mediterranean Sea flowed from the Atlantic Ocean, the Greek philosopher sealed a message in a bottle that asked its recipient to send word from wherever it was found.
In Waiting for Tear Gas, I recognize the faces and scenes from last summers protests against the systematic murder of Black people by the police, and feel the catharsis of standing alongside the community in solidarity. I recall the tear gas, the chants, the police car set aflameall of these instances while we waited to see what change would come. With empathy and grief, were still waiting.