CERN: Jeremy Bolen at Andrew Rafacz

This work has long left the Andrew Rafacz Gallery, but is still worth noting.

“In Unititled (CERN7.18.12), at least six intertwined methods of observing through recording are employed, in an almost desperate attempt to form a more complete document of the liminal space between the real and simulated,” writes Monica Ryan of Jeremy Bolen’s work. Bolen does indeed combine layers and methodologies of perception into his flattened frames. But the flattening is not, as Ryan posits, suspended by the various sources and methodologies used to create its contents. Rather, the framed composition of the works give a sensation of a complex scrapbook or collage: a view to a memory or place through multiple artifacts, minutae and ephemera, but a flat experience nevertheless.

Bolen explores various sites, themselves charged with scientific research and meaning, such as the site of the Large Hadron Collider, by using various self-made camera apparatuses, and exposing film to earth, night sky, dew, etc from those sites. The exposed film is then used to create images, which are juxtaposed in CERN with photos of the site in question along with grass clippings, dirt and dust from the site. The pieces read as: photos of places on colored backgrounds with dust and dirt surrounding them.

We enjoy a scrapbook not because we inherently love looking at locks of hair, or coins glued to pages, or bad photos of our friends, but because of the memories those collages bring back into our consciousness. But because I have no real firsthand experience of Bolen’s research process—I have not seen the apparatus he works with, I have not been to these sites myself—I am left not with a different experience of place, or a different understanding of scientific processes and methodologies, but a nostalgic longing for an experience I’ve never had.

The photos are well-composed but uninviting: the dirt and ephemera vary in their composition, and in some cases settle at the bottom of the frame, as if thrown and forgotten: the images produced from negatives are all various shades of delicious green but become a background palette for a framed image which becomes again: scrapbook. I wish, for instance, I could feel the dirt as it was burying negatives: but the green shades tell me nothing as to whether the dirt was cool or warm to the touch.

So Bolen’s work offers me up not a key for interpreting his own form of data, not a translation of his own experience of the site, but something else entirely. I am looking at the scrapbook of a stranger from another planet. There is no common point of reference—I cannot identify with images of people, or wonder at fashions, or gaze at flora and fauna different from what is familiar in my hometown. I am faced with a collection of an experience I cannot relate to.

In short, in his attempt to complete the space ‘between the real and the simulated’, Bolen’s work lands far away from the real. Rather than create a new interpretation of data collection an research process, CERN manages to distance us from the sites under examination—the cold distance of scientific research without the reassuring discovery of collectively useful information or memory.

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