Lucas Blalock’s Digital Toolkit | Art21 “New York Close Up”


[Greenpoint, Brooklyn] [DOOR SLAMS] [LIGHT SWITCH FLICKS ON] [SOUND OF COMPUTER STARTING UP] [New York Close Up] [“Lucas Blalock’s Digital Toolkit”] This is “The Smoker”. [SOUND OF CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKING] That picture started off by me wanting to
make a picture of a smoker. It sort of relates to this Magritte
painting from the late Forties. I was going to have an exhibition
in Brussels and Magritte is from Brussels. It seemed like a suitable environment for
this, sort of, game. [SOUND OF CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKING] [SOUND OF CASSETTE BEING LOADED] [SOUND OF CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKING] [Lucas Blalock, Artist] I started using Photoshop when I was still
in undergrad. It was just, like, a procedural tool. Like, it was a replacement
for the dark room. It felt like special effects for a long time. It felt just like something after the fact— that it was, sort of, making up
ground for a picture. It took me a long time to get to a place where I understood how I might be able to
use it. Around the time I read Bertolt Brecht’s
book on theater— he was talking about bringing the labor that happened offstage—in a theater production—onto
the stage. I started to think about the kinds of labor
I was hiding. There are all these ways to, sort of, hide
your labor in Photoshop. And I’d been really interested in, sort of,
undermining those things. There are a lot of things the computer
will do for you that don’t need you, and those have never been tools that I’ve
been particularly attracted to. Like, I’m attracted to the ones that are
sort of the dumbest tools in Photoshop. And I tend to use them in the most
blunt way. [1. Eraser Tool] One of the rules of photography seems to be
that the photograph needs to be homogeneous– it needs to be one thing. Usually that’s one view. I was really interested in how I add
levels of labor to photographs without losing that sense of photographicness. And the cutting through was part of that. [2. Masking] In commercial practice, masking is a way to select the sky in a photograph and make it
a darker blue, or to select someone’s eyes in a
photograph and sort of brighten them up. And for me, masking has sort of opened up
possibilities of drawing out relationships. Like, when I saw this bag, it looked like
a human torso to me, and when I took its picture, that’s sort of what was on my mind. When I got the negative back, I started to
look for opportunities to sort of enhance that relationship. One of the tools that I’ve used a lot
is the clone stamp– [3. Clone Stamp] you would use to take out imperfections, or you would use to remove a lamp post
from a street. I think something with the clone stamp
particularly that I’m really excited about: it’s an activity that can be either
additive or subtractive. So you could cover something up– say, take an object out of the picture– but if you did it poorly, it would leave this, kind of, interference
pattern in the background. There’s been an anxiety about, sort of, you
know, [4. Brush Tool] “Why would you make another picture now?” “What’s the point?” “There are pictures of everything already.” I really had started to think about
photography as an activity of drawing– as a way to try to understand the world
through making a picture of it. And this seems to be a continuation of the
historic activity of drawing– like, drawing with a pencil. When I started, what I was doing was sort of making a burlesque of
commercial practice. Because, really, these were the only
people who were using digital effects in their pictures. And so, I use all of the tools that I use in a really similar way. [SOUND OF CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKING] They’re all, really, this shovel, you know? They’re this extension of the finger. [SOUND OF CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKING] Being sort of stuck into space, it’s an entry into a space that I couldn’t
enter any other way but through Photoshop. Humor, for me, has been an important thing
in my work because it’s a way to, sort of, bring
people into the room. It’s literally disarming. Like, Buster Keaton, or like, early cinema– it’s people who were incredibly effective at drawing our understanding of the cinema. Buster Keaton’s gags give us a way to
enter movies. Humor for me is about relationships. It’s about an invitation to relate to the
objects in the pictures, and I think that more and more, as time has
gone on, it’s been also about relating to this sort
of ambiguousness of photographing digital space and the way that it’s now being construed. I believe in art because art makes new
spaces. Aesthetics is a way of, sort of, proto thinking– of thinking before you can think these new
thoughts. Even in the goofiest, most ridiculous way, aesthetics is a way of, sort of, unpacking
possibility.

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