David Askevold was in Los Angeles during January and February for an artist residency and exhibition hosted by Mandarin, Alexis Hall’s storefront gallery on the second floor of a desolate but beautiful two-storey Chinatown mini-mall and plaza off Chung King Road.
After a supernatural experience comes the question of what happened, and whether it happened at all. Was it more than an incident of significant coincidence? Was it, for example, a ghost, or the intersection of a cold draft and a shadow?
The show’s title, The Burning Bush, The Burned Bush, The Bush Trap refers to a 12-photo series that includes The Pit #1 and #2, Interrupted Landscape #1 and #2 and Shot in the Dark #1 through #5. All the photographs were taken in January and February 2005 in Los Angeles, except Pit #1 and #2, which were taken at a barbecue in Nova Scotia in 1996. Mandarin also published a catalogue based solely on The Pit, which includes a 150-word text of the same name written by Askevold in 1996.
A primary supposition for the photographs is difficult to name. The titles alone reveal coils of meaning and possible interpretation. The ambiguous Shot in the Dark #1 through #5, for instance, refers to a murder, a suicide, a veiled threat on the president’s life? The photos deepen the sea of possibility combining spectacular silhouettes; silver, red, yellow and gold streaks of light; California landscape: palms, creosote and desert; atomic scorched earth; stills from the Vietnam war; posters for exotic travel locations; speculation on what heaven and hell might be like? Fuck knows.
It is characteristic of David’s work that the scope of its inquiry demands a complex vocabulary to theorize it; its succinct material economy and imagery create tension between complicated theory and a phantasm, between a good imagination and phenomenological transgression. Things that have the effect of expanding consciousness are never how you imagine; they never feel or occur as you think they will. That is by definition their purpose.
Predicated on altered or supplemental perception and knowledge of signs and rituals (the gift of sixth sense), belief in the occult is the hopeful assertion that there is an unseen influence which can make the insignificant significant; small gestures result in grandiose outcomes. The draft is so intensely cold, and its intersection with the red shadow so frequent, that you question whether it is only a coincidence, and you require a seance to determine if it is a broken air conditioner with a flashing light, or if it is the return of your dead brother.
The technique of image superimposition builds associative compositions to facilitate perception, or to suggest time lapses, simultaneous action, intersecting events and the correspondence between subjective and objective reality, between the spiritual and the material. Combining images that are incompatible or contradictory forces the viewer to attempt to reconcile or unify them. The impulse to unify intimates predetermination; it assumes that the images were previously dispersed, and must now be reunited. It is a quality that looms in David’s work, disorienting and obtuse. It suggests a kind of rhythm or universal dynamic typical to the occult.