If there's one crucial thing that's missing from the art scene in Phoenix, it's dialogue. That's precisely why Dana Buhl, photographic artist and curatorial coordinator at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, opened her own space, The Table. Existing in between an exhibition and a critique, The Table functions through fostering dialogue. While the opening receptions of the exhibitions here are invite-only and conversation driven, anyone can view the exhibitions and have a conversation with the curator by making an appointment. Located inside Buhl's Phoenix home, the space allows visitors to look at the work, sit down, and have a conversation about it.
The Table began as a wishful idea. Buhl graduated from the photography program at ASU in 2008 and missed the critical dialogue that comes with peer-to-peer contact. Simply making work without getting input wasn't enough. When Buhl was driving home from her second job, she had a revelation. "It dawned on me that I had this community," she said. All that community really needed was a space and a reason to come together. After preparing the space, the inaugural exhibition, Bucky Miller's "To The Confusion Of Our Enemies," took place throughout July of this year.
The way that receptions progress is completely up to those attending. But the general premise is that attendees discuss art and eat together. The exhibitors invite guests of their choosing, and there are also several regular guests who attend. After the first six exhibitions, those previously featured then each choose the next artists to exhibit. That means the circle of people involved with The Table will continue to expand. So far the space has been exclusively geared towards photographic artists, but as this young space continues to develop, other media could be coming into the mix.
For now, the space is a "hybrid collective" of photographers. Buhl chose the first six photographers to present because of connections between the work of each of them. "They are all working from a similar understanding of photography that I find particularly interesting," she says. "I wanted to facilitate them having an actual conversation about what they are all up to." Since its inception, The Table has exhibited the work of Bucky Miller, Michael Max McLeod, Buhl herself, and Andrew Hammerand. November will feature the work of Mike Williams.
We made it out to see Hammerand's exhibition, "The Man Who Never Returned," before it closed on October 26. Hammerand's distorted street photographs shot in Boston are documents of the friction between the real, physical world, and the increasingly real digital world. Some of the images seem to be straight photographs, depicting the world as it appears, but as the viewer looks closer, the subjects of these photographs are at times either multiplied, disjointed, or simply disappearing.
Hammerand makes most of these photographs by looking down into the viewfinder of a point-and-shoot digital camera with a prism in front of the lens. In a way, his purely digital method for making pictures is a modern twin-lens reflex. Taking multiple photographs of the same subject or scene, he puts them into Photoshop and allows the program to automatically merge the separate files into one image. With each image there's a push and pull between digital and physical. At this point, though, the digital world may be just as real as the physical world.
What makes this work so compelling is how Hammerand simultaneously engages with both physical and digital spaces. The last photograph in the sequence, one of the few seemingly unaltered photographs, depicts a young woman kneeling down while viewing documents on the ground. At first, it seems as if she dropped her folder or stumbled upon the scene, but the files are so neatly laid out and the photograph is beautifully composed. Even though this photograph lacks the digitized aspects of others in the exhibition, it speaks of how our own data is laid out. We weave in and out of physical and digital spaces, leaving some sort of trace.
Throughout the month of November, Mike Williams will present "Guided Conversation," a fitting title given that The Table thrives on conversation. His work is excellently lined up with the other photographers who have shown thus far. His images are uncanny, depicting the science fictions of the everyday that actually aren't so fictional. While Hammerand creates his strange photographs through a digital process, Williams sequences in such a way that the most banal image can become bizarre and unsettling.
"Guided Conversation" by Mike Williams will be on view from November 1 through 30. The Table is located in Phoenix at a private address. To schedule an appointment to see an exhibition, visit The Table's website.