52 O Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
March 21 - May 16, 2015
Evan Hume's recent work reproduces and enlarges documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to various government agencies such as the FBI, Air Force and the National Archives. Though the finished works are digital prints, his true medium is the generation loss that occurs as these documents have been photocopied from other photocopies, scanned, printed, reduced, enlarged, sharpened, emailed, and printed again.
As each successive transaction degenerates these documents’ DNA, it also transforms its information into a fossilized visual vocabulary. Though most of the original content may have been redacted or utterly unknowable, a stark, black-and-white crust has been introduced that reveals the history of this chain of command. Perhaps reproduced works can radiate Walter Benjamin’s aura.
Was it coincidence that classified documents proliferated in parallel with the visual tropes of Abstract Expressionism in post-war America? Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, and Robert Motherwell redacted and obscured matrices of canvas, echoing the paranoia that malevolent forces were at work: bureaucratic, extraterrestrial and possibly supernatural. Denials in paint and toner, revived and amplified in the post-9/11 era, as federal agencies play their cards closer, while Wikileaks, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden react equally and oppositely.
While Hume’s work embodies this anxiety, it also suggests that for whatever information lost, these documents also gain a life of their own—a step away from conspiracy. The fact that this visual information can be seen through the lens of concealment, redaction, and now declassification allows us to comb these images for alternate meanings and infatuations.
In conjunction with the exhibition, FURTHERMORE & HUME will release Aesthetics of Bureaucracy, a 40-page zine including additional visual ephemera and outtakes (edition of 150).