Rozalind Drummond

Shadow Zone
City Gallery, Melbourne

The representation of everyday life cannot have a beginning. Everyday thinking cannot raise itself above everyday life without forgetting how to recognise the latter. Artists, particularly, have to be properly asleep to dream the everyday. Artists ordinarily oppose their wakeful day's business to the anonymous, abyssal nihilism of everydayness. Their vocation is to apprehend the everyday, countersign its statement and produce its conviction. The everyday, by the way, is noticeable as one's comportment just short of, or just ahead of, a kind of dying-of-boredom. Of everyday life there is a premonition, given in childhood, in which something impossibly severe but inevitable seems to have come about as the unspeaking solitude and neutral helplessness of one's being alive. Almost without delay, the city has appropriated this originary dismay and taken over the sky.

In Agnes Varda's film The Vagabond (1985), protagonist Mona's refusals (her no-sayings, her having "dropped out": like Melville's Bartleby she "prefers not. .. ") exist only as Varda's proprietary transcriptions-that is, as fictional , narrative art.

The film knows this and, surrendering willingly its purport of representing truthfully Mona's life, begins with the discovery of her dead body in a ditch (she has stumbled and died of exposure) and proceeds to present only various "secondhand" accounts of her movements up until her death.

Mona has discovered and spat out the everydayness of her life (she was once a secretary but now wanders, a vagabond). Reciprocally, she has been spat out because her corrosive uselessness is the recurrent nightmare of urban reason. Interpretation of her character must always already be too full of this reason. She thus appears as an unstable equivocation between thoroughly willful defiance and thoroughly passive indifference. She is uncommon and improper; undistinguished and absolutely singular. Inevitably, her (self-) destruction is a matter of the finest but most absolute differences-a matter of chance.

Mona makes her life without formality. She silently knows that to be formally intelligent is a kind of stupidity.
Mona's relation to the architecture of a large railway station: in one particular scene Mona lurches around in Nimes station, drunk and wasted, yelling a mocking and dismissive response to her male companion's offer to land her a role in some pornographic films .. .

In certain respects, Rozalind Drummond's photographic mediation of architectural objects seems to work as if by a principle of willful indifference. The photographs show a moment of aversion or of having-turned-away which at once sees and erases the rules for living built into the urban environment. The duration of her camera's exposures (easily long enough to register the movement of the hand-held camera) scales itself unstably between, on the one hand, the ideal, instantaneous "now" of architecture's moment of reason and, on the other, the pseudo-cyclical time of daily, urban consumption-the flow of commuters, etc. Her photographs look as if they might have been taken by an anonymous commuter on her hurried way to or from a train. But they also look as if they must have been taken by a complete outsider to the commuter spectacle- by someone astonished by, delirious with and in flight from that kind of world which constricts and intensifies itself in a large city's major railway station (where most of the photographs in Rozalind Drummond's recent solo exhibition were taken).

The camera shakes; fluorescent lights flare and trail (making little groups of identical, squiggly, "written" characters); human figures sweep and jerk to become veils of themselves ; dark areas swallow up and regurgitate light; trains are apparitions of movement; the built environment- as expression of a rule of architectural sanity-is ignored, refused, forgotten ; the vanishing point has returned from infinity to envelop the whole.

In a sense, the photographer has "aestheticized" these scenes (freeing them as beautiful, sublime) and, at the same time, has homogenized them as her signature (the "look" of a Drummond photograph). A space is thus recovered from architectural hardness and human confusion. A variety of formal devices is used in the construction of certain images: there is a "split-screen" device and a mirror-image device, for example. In some cases, whole vertical segments of a print appear relatively underexposed, suggesting a partial shuttering of the scene. This "shuttering" interrupts the picture plane, or, rather, articulates it as an operation of phototechnical decision making. it's as if the print were "dodged" or "burnt-in' in the simplest way possible- without any attempt to disguise (with soft gradations) the selective masking of light, and without direct adherence to the photogenic contours of the photographed object. Finally, the prints in the exhibition have been arranged on the wall together so as to articulate a space/time which is different to that which is usually narrated in an ensemble of photographs- there are "cubist" juxtapositions, peculiar contiguities, and the like, which, in a way, remove the exhibition from reductive scrutiny. Thus the exhibition itself persists without betraying a recognizable structural vanishing point (apart from its setting as a commercial and administrative project within the gallery system).

As an artist, Drummond, of course, requires such formal/technical procedures- such stylistic paraphs-to guarantee the repetition of her signature. Her secret excursions into an urban, public underworld are not at all like those of, say, Brassai (poet of exemplary, visibly nocturnal, Parisian moments), whose photographs transmit miracles which have crystallized and risen out of the everyday. Rather, she photographs to blink-in the everyday (of architecture, the city) in its suppressed unreason. it's as if she wishes, in her way, not to be in subjection to the decisions and visual priorities which hold sway in Sydney's, or Melbourne's, architectural space. it's as if she wishes, with a contiguity of sensations (swift presentiments and passages), to erase the perspectival orientation of the human subject. And, it's as if she wishes to have been present when nothing in particular happened or to have been presented with the given, brute occasion of an artificially constructed everydayness, though only to have caught its glance with a flexuous, anonymous look-a surreptitious or fugitive appraisal which works without a law of deep intention and without a conclusive morality.

Compared to, say, Bill Henson's darkly erotic visions of a fallen and benighted, world, Drummond's photographs suggest a sort of elliptically scientific play-work- a kind of minor theorizing with the camera which insists change and movement into the static architecture of the visible. Henson develops and fixes a human-scape of irredeemable fallenness-almost a recognition of evil. What Drummond presents is more like a utopian affirmation escaping with its own kind of time and unburdening itself of bad memories: a fleeting, unconvinced look at the order of things-emphatic and exemplary with its fleetingness and unconvincedness. Thus the camera may be a wandering, artificial eye which recovers, from that built space wherein a city's monstrous humanism shelters itself, a vagrantly natural limit- now and here, without a roof or a law.