Written by Marley C. Smit
The Polaroid camera is an iconic staple of American photography. Most film cameras in 2016 are either considered outdated or reserved only for the most sophisticated photographers. However, this self-developing film camera is still widely used in everything from the fashion industry to everyday photo projects. The relevance of the Polaroid photo in today’s society is illuminated by artist Sarah Elise Abramson in Déjà Vu In General, her solo Polaroid retrospective at Coagula Curatorial.
The exhibition will feature a selection of 200 Polaroid images taken by Ms. Abramson over the past decade. The reference to Déjà vu in the title is relevant to Abramson’s choice of both instrument and subject matter. The surreal, dreamlike quality of Abramson’s photographs provides her viewer with the familiar and yet alien sensation of Déjà vu. Perhaps more pointed is the use of the Polaroid itself. In today’s Internet age, we have grown accustomed to everything being instantaneous, to having the world at our fingertips. The instant production of a physical photo from a Polaroid camera satiates our contemporary need to have everything right this second. Yet the use of film itself, the fact that the Polaroid only produces a physical copy and not a digital one, recalls a time before the world was a click away when photographs were objects instead of digital files and developing pictures involved a dark room instead of a USB cable.
Looking through Abramson’s Polaroid retrospective feels almost like viewing artifacts from a religious procession or rite of passage. The draped fabric, often cloaking her figures’ heads, recalls classical imagery of saints and martyrs. The glitter, masks, and festive costumes present throughout the work indicate some kind of ritual or celebration. Abramson’s Polaroids transport her viewers to a magical world of her own creation. Déjà vu is a disorienting phenomenon, blurring the lines between past and present for those who experience it. Déjà Vu In General plays with the same sensations, creating a surreal yet familiar landscape for audiences to lose themselves in.
Déjà Vu In General by Sarah Elise Abramson will be one view at Coagula Curatorial (974 Chung King Road, Los Angeles, CA) from December 3rd through December 30th, 2016.