Pictorial Displacement: ‘a change of plan 4 (-85.5 metres)’ and ‘a change of plan 4 (-85.5 metres)’ (both 2014)
Extract from MORE THAN EVER artists monograph publication Essay Dr Veronico Tello
One of the most distinguishing effects of Roberts-Goodwin’s work is its capacity to elicit a sense of a displacement. We are never quite able to immerse ourselves in her image space. The stubborn flatness of the Death Valley U.S.A. photographs, ‘a change of plan 4 (-85.5 metres)’ and ‘a change of plan 4 (-85.5 metres)’ (both 2014) disallow the viewer’s gaze to enter the pictorial space. There is a buffer zone, a zone of resistance—indeed a boundary—between the viewer and the image. Such an aesthetic is symptomatic of aftermath, or late, photography. This is a photographic genre characterized by blank, seemingly vacant imagery, which does not offer the viewer the usual visual and symbolic cues to which we are accustomed in documentary photography. In aftermath photography, as Ulrich Baer has observed, “The landscape’s imagined depth—where experience, imagination, and memory may be projected and contained—vanishes into abstracted inhospitable terrain.” The photographic genre elicits a sense of estrangement, an awkward relationship between viewer, place and history.
Certainly, in Roberts-Goodwin’s photographs we encounter some such elements of the aesthetic sublime.
Refusing the aesthetic category’s quintessential panoramic view and sweeping vistas, Roberts-Goodwin sieves through her imagery selecting “awkward” shots, and/or cropping formally “perfect” pictures, for exhibition.
See for example: Ulrich Baer, Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma,
(Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2002) 61-87.