My practice examines the extent to which our experience of the real is informed by the language of fiction. From the visual evidence presented in the forms of the photograph, the moving image and the museum, my work questions how our knowledge, understanding and reaction to cultural phenomena is constantly re-framed, distorted and fragmented.

By adopting the role of ‘Archivist/Researcher’, I am investigating the fictive lives of a film director, actress and movie studio. Extrapolating this narrative in each subsequent installation / body of work, various aspects of the mythologies of the director’s great, unfinished (and unseen) films, are presented. By re-contextualizing these ‘cultural fragments’ (photographs, film posters, objects, film clips) using institutional presentation, photographic series or time-based media, the works and their installation act as both visual framework and self-referential critique.

The photographic series Lost Sites and Location Shots examines the visual language of the historic/cultural site, as indicated through signage, sub-titled voiceover or the depiction of visual recording. These ‘documentary’ images imply a veneer of truth, yet our willingness to defer to the lens-based image, reveal the signifiers of fact and fiction to be endlessly interchangeable. Is this seemingly objective form/voice divulging fact, telling a story, or both?

Midnight, mid-Atlantic…, the first in a trilogy of films, depicts a Researcher’s search for clues to a mystery surrounding the fictive director’s unreleased epic, entitled ‘Keflavik’. By initially exploiting the ‘Ken Burn’s or ‘travelogue’ -style documentary form, the film’s visual trajectory shifts into the realm of magical realism, mystery and science fiction – mirroring the Researcher’s quest through Iceland’s landscape. Through this conflict of the signifiers of document versus fiction, the work challenges the viewers perception of how the authoritative ‘voice’ can write and/or re-write a cultural history.

As counterpoint, the related photographic works present both matter-of-fact and mythologized views of the Icelandic landscape. In the series Signs That Mean Nothing, singular, man-made elements are presented in the landscape, reflecting the implied objective, orthographic nature of the documentary photograph, while the large-scale prints, Gullfoss and midnight, mid-Atlantic,  echo the spectacle of 19th Century landscape painting and the cinematography of the Hollywood epic.

By questioning not only our ability, but also our willingness, to decipher the visual evidence presented before us, my practice exposes the increasing interdependency between the digitally retouched, the experiential and the imagined – a phenomena experienced as both real and fake, simultaneously.


© duncan ganley