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Recordings

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Every time I stop by On the Scene, the same thing happens. Whether I'm in the room for 5 minutes or 45, someone will lean in far too close to Jason Lazarus's Recordings installation, despite the stanchions intended to keep them further away. They will gesture to one of the 200-odd snapshots mounted facing the wall, so that their subject matter can't been seen, but the inscriptions on the backs of the snapshots can. Occasionally, they will even come close to touching a photograph. Of course, when necessary, I step up and remind them that touching the art is not safe for the longevity of the objects involved. But that's not the part that intrigues me. I marvel instead at these snapshots' ability--even as they are turned facing the wall--to prompt a desire and familiarity that, in the brief moment of leaning in, gesturing, or almost touching, is so strong that these viewers forget themselves, their museum context, and the work of art. Lazarus has denied viewers the fulfillment of their curiosity about what these snapshots depict, but in these moments, I am convinced that he has tapped into something deeper than curiosity. The backs of these photos compel viewers to look, to contemplate, and to narrate far more than the fronts of these photos likely ever could. And so rather than the average 3 seconds that visitors give to looking at each work of art, this installation invites them to linger, to engage with the work as they move along reading the inscriptions on the snapshots. It’s a dance I love to watch, provided they don’t actually touch.

Katherine Bussard, Associate Curator of Photography

Jason Lazarus. Recordings ("Big Storm" January 30, 1967, Mom) (detail), 2009. Courtesy Andrew Rafacz Gallery, © Jason Lazarus.