SYMPATHETIC ASSOCIATIONS: INTERFERENCE PATTERNS
DIGITAL PRINT ON OUTDOOR-GRADE NYLON, RATCHET STRAPS
15 X 22 FEET
Commissioned for Play/ground 2020, a public art exhibition organized by Resource:Art and the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art, Sympathetic associations is a large-scale digital print on fabric suspended in the skyway adjacent to Buffalo’s Explore & More Children’s Museum in the Canalside neighborhood. The work traces the history of American photographer Berenice Abbott’s series Documenting Science, originally executed for Scientific Illustrated and the Physical Science Study Committee in the 1940s and 1950s. In Documenting Science, Abbott’s patented technology captured striking photographic exposures of light waves moving through tanks of water. Originally intended for educational textbooks, these images echo processes of interference, evasion, and secrecy that was both present and in the air during the anti-Communist and anti-scientific fervor of the McCarthy era. At the time, both Abbott and the Photo League—a cooperative organization she belonged to which was devoted to documentary photography—were under investigation by the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee for communist affiliation and subversive activity. Abbott considered this series depicting scientific phenomena like quantum wave theory to be one of the most important, yet unacknowledged, in her career. The result is an abstract interplay of light, repetition, and rhythm suspended in the skyway underpass of a highway.