Memory Matters

As soon we look at Mayer’s images, we immediately find ourselves in a different territory—one that appears explicitly personal and autobiographical, fraught with memory and subjectivity. The color is lush, and the look and feel hews closer to the diary films of Jonas Mekas . . . than to models of conceptual photography. Yet unlike the overt markers of subjectivity and personal style in Mekas’s work . . . the quasi-systematic aspect of Mayer’s project—36 photos a day, every day—has the effect of abstracting the images and foregrounding their generic quality: they are from her life, but they could be almost anyone’s . . . the very intensity of surface detail in Mayer’s Memory paradoxically atomizes personal experience into an endless flow of pictures and recited recollections; its authorship is distributed among various functions that don’t necessarily cohere into a single self . . . Needless to say, in their look and feel, Mayer’s photographs could not be further from the resolutely “banal” black and white snapshots that we usually associate with conceptual art. Their frequent nighttime lighting and dim interiors at times bring them closer to Nan Goldin’s early work, though without the cloying stagey feel. Images resonant with narrative and personal history are followed by fire hydrants and parking lots—not the carefully chosen “architectural banal” of Ed Ruscha, just the parking lots that surround everyday life in almost any city or town . . . It is all too easy to imagine a present-day artist selecting out the “poetic” moments from such scenes, making tableaux of artfully arranged trash to strategically reference Arte Povera or site-based art. Mayer’s hippy profusion of randomness breathes in a way that the claustrophobic pictures of more recent so-called “post-conceptual” practice cannot.

Liz Kotz, on Bernadette Mayer’s Memory

Source: Concreta