The Elephant-Phase III

The aftermath of The Elephant. As people walked through the maze, they unwittingly deposited powdered pigment on the fine art paper in the shape of their varied shoes.

Each piece of paper became both a record of the event and a primitive enactment of photography’s indexical power. If the example that is often given for the ‘indexical sign’ is the footprint in the sand, then the aftermath of The Elephant is the marginalia of that canonical page in art theory. Once the ‘drawings’ were hung on the wall, the tire shards existed as ghostly spectres surrounded by a stream of footprints.

When I began work on this piece, I tentatively titled the project The Elephant because the large tire fragments looked like large dead animals in the road and I jumped at the chance to literalize a common expression (while alluding to the elephant in the room that was L.A.’s driving culture). But by the end of the work I had met the real elephant in the room, the one that continues to haunt me to this day. At first I was disappointed in my poor photographic record of this piece. That is, until I hung those massive footprint-stained sheets on my studio wall. Up to that point my dialogue with photography had been a one-way street—”I need you to do this for me.” The Elephant taught me to listen to photography, to think of it as an a force with its own history, demands and desires and as an ontological entity that might have something to tell me. Specifically, it was the first time I thought of photography’s relationship to dust, a subject that still drives much of my work today.