Home 12. Esther Parada

"A Thousand Centuries: Panel 3 " (42K JPEG)

This image is part of a1992 three-panel piece entitled A Thousand Centuries which is part of a larger series called 2-3-4-D: Digital Revisions in Time and Space, which grew out of an NEA Visual Artists Forum project, "Society and Perception: New Imaging Technologies," curated by Ed Earle at the California Museum of Photography, Riverside, California. Participants in this residency project were invited to make use of the museum's resources, notably the Keystone-Mast Collection of historical stereographs. Because of my long-term relationship with Latin America (Peace Corps volunteer teaching in Bolivia in the mid-60s; research, exhibition, and teaching in Mexico, Nicaragua, and Cuba in the 80s), I was particularly interested in representations of Latin America and what they revealed about North American cultural attitudes in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries.

A Thousand Centuries was first exhibited in October 1992 at the Centre National de la Photographie, Palais de Tokyo, in Paris, France (as part of the exhibition digital photography, and it was subsequently included in Iterations: The New Image at the International Center of Photography Midtown in New York City. As a sequential wall installation it deliberately confronts the viewer with different imaging/viewing technologies as well as different cultural perspectives.The form of the original show was:

Panel #1: a color transparency of a contemporary street scene (which I took in Havana, Cuba, in 1984) inserted in a viewmaster which is mounted on an 11" x 14" wood panel faced with a black & white linotronic print.

Panel #2: a facsimile reproduction of an historical stereograph - "Original Tomb of Christopher Columbus, Havana, Cuba" - mounted in an antique stereoscope; inserted into an 11" x 14" wood panel faced with a black & white linotronic print.

Panel #3: a 33" x 55" tiled inkjet print which digitally blends and annotates the first two images.

Panel 3 is in fact a photo-composite which digitally blends the images of the first two panels: the stereograph of Columbus's tomb with the Havana street scene. Text from Panel 2 (the NYU/ITP code qualifying photographic veracity) is interwoven with fragments from the resounding tribute to Columbus of Panel 1. "AN IMAGE CONSTRUCTED (A HISTORY NARRATED/ A MONUMENT ERECTED)/THROUGH THE ADDITION OR SUBTRACTION OF ELEMENTS/ THAT SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECT/ THE MEANING/ OF THE ORIGINAL."

The cultural contradictions of the original transparency (e.g. the pink-skinned female pin-up filling the T-shirt of the copper-colored young man) are further complicated by the digital blend: the index finger of a blank-eyed Columbus points at the fair skinned baby; the dark children emerging from the narrow streets of Old Havana are superimposed on the faltering symmetry of stone tablets and crumbling niches.

Ultimately my aim is to emphasise the mutability of historical narrative, whether it is carved in monuments, or fixed on the printed page.

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