The enigmatic phrases that adorn the objects and hug the ground in Shannon Ebner’s black-and-white photographs are both curious and haunting. Her USA (2003), for instance, shows the word ‘NAUSEA’ erected in the brush abutting a barren waterfront as a pseudo-comical/pseudo-cynical reflection on the failed utopia of the American dream. Shaped from cardboard, flagging a little in the sea breeze, the words stare back, like the cryptic clues of a crossword puzzle. Ebner conjures memories of deadpan conceptual photography, but points towards an uncertain future.
Hans Ulrich Obrist
Over the past five years, Shannon Ebner has mined the porous territory of language by photographing words and letters of her own construction in environments that range from the Los Angeles landscape to the space of the artist’s studio. The works selected for Arles are largely drawn from Ebner’s first artist’s book The Sun as Error as well as her two most recent solo exhibitions—Invisible Language Workshop and Signal Hill. This expansive collection of images is a continuation of Ebner’s investigation of the linguistic and material potential of the photograph, moving away from photographing specific words and phrases, and towards the construction of a more mercurial visual system. In a broad sense, Ebner’s work can be seen as an ongoing exploration of the indexical properties of language and photography, and the terrain where word and image slip between recognition and illegibility.
Shannon Ebner is represented by the Wallspace Gallery in New York and the Altman Siegel Gallery in San Francisco.
Exhibition produced with the collaboration of Wallspace Gallery, New York.