Projects - William Knipscher


Where the Light Goes

“Where the Light Goes” started out with origami cranes. For some time I’ve been folding cranes with silver gelatin photo paper and exposing them under light and then processing them as normal prints. This started as an homage to the Japanese tradition of folding 1,000 cranes to heal a loved one, but soon became a way to discover how light interacts with a three-dimensional photosensitive object. The unfolded prints record this indexical act of the path of light, reflecting and refracting, revealing the imperfections of my handiwork. The prints shown here are smaller crops of freeform folds I made in the darkroom.

Can't Remember, Can't Forget

It can be tempting to believe in the permanence of a photographic image. Part of why the medium is so seductive is its ability to reveal minute, hidden moments that might otherwise escape the eye. The work in "Can't Remember, Can't Forget" seeks to accelerate the degradation of a photographic image, thereby allowing it to reveal, not conceal, the passage of time. Ultimately the unfixed silver gelatin prints in this installation become unreadable visually, and unable to pass on whatever message they contained. The digital video, corrupted from repeated duplication, also loses some of its original quality but gains the richness of something that has been well used. Underlying the series as a whole is a deeper question about why we document moments in our lives photographically despite a near certainty that the meaning will fade over time. *View a video excerpt here.

"Then (39°18'32.45"N, 76°37'18.87"W)" and "Today (and every day till then)"

"Today (and every day till then)" is a watermark in handmade paper. This piece began as a photograph of my coffee mug's shadow. As a watermark the image becomes exaggeratedly latent because it can only be seen when illuminated from behind. I emphasize the corporeality of the object, through the addition of a coffee ring imposed on the watermark. "Then (39°18'32.45"N, 76°37'18.87"W)" is more removed from the strictly corporeal, focusing instead on the movement of the cosmos and considering our small actions as humans in contrast with larger astronomical movements. The piece is chalk dust on a slate blackboard. It represents the alignment of stars when considered from the vantage point of a specific geographic location at the moment of my projected death, based on numerous online life expectancy calculators. In thinking about the movement of the stars over the course of a lifetime, one is at once made to feel the comparative brevity and impermanence of human life, and also the cyclic endurance of the natural world.

The Children

My mothers' death three years ago was a transformative event that made me re-evaluate my art practice. The work I made to deal with that loss, presented me with a strong need for a conceptual work expressed through a physical, almost artisanal, way of manipulating photographs. The project was heavily influenced by the tradition of effigies and their place somewhere between statues and corpses. For these larger-than-life portraits of myself and my siblings I decided to intercede at the printing stage and make the process three-dimensional. Photo-polymer plates allowed me to generate a raised form of the portraits that I transferred onto paper as rubbings using a large home-made black crayon composed of beeswax and charcoal. The resulting portraits attain a presence, though faint and appropriately haunting and every mark is also a testament to my own presence and action.

Evening's Empire

The places where we exist and the objects we encounter have lives independent of our interactions with them – that is, outside their usefulness. Influenced partly by the New Topographics, the images from “Evening’s Empire” focus on the contrast of natural and unnatural, and seek out the moments of transcendence created by the balancing of the two. Urban environments attempt permanence, and therefore often escape association with decay. But fire, flood and other natural disasters show they are only temporary. Time and nature will defeat the hand of man, and a tree will eventually stop being parking-lot landscaping and start being nature again. In observing the decay of man-made environments, nature signifies time and the degree of ruin it causes reflects the lifespan of the place. Thus the space is humanized and it is the loneliness of nature’s slow and constant encroachment on that space that becomes paramount. We are a part of our environment and its decline recalls our own. Although these portraits of places could seem iconic or documentary in feeling, the emphasis is truly on the moment at hand - this light, these weeds, this dirt - and this sense of arrest allows for the technical aspects of the photograph to meet with the conceptual. The composition, light, and isolation are only temporary, and it’s really only in such brief moments that it is possible to observe places as they are.