Unraveling Identity With Zoe Crosher

By looking backwards at an archive of an American woman’s adventures in post-WWII Asia, Zoe Crosher’s show at DCKT contemporary comments on our present moment of life archiving, digitization and globalism.

By looking backwards at an archive of an American woman’s adventures in post-WWII Asia, Zoe Crosher’s show at DCKT contemporary comments on our present moment of life archiving, digitization and globalism.

Look for her work at this year’s Armory Show and the upcoming issue of Aperture, which raises questions of history, identity, the transience of contemporary life and just what evidence one life leaves behind.

The show is made of an archive of shots taken by Michelle DuBois put in a new context by Crosher, bringing a new perspective in the consideration of another’s life:

. . . a reconsidered archive culled from crates, boxes and albums consisting of endless flirtatious smiles, tourist shots, cheesecake mementos and suggestive poses in every film type and size.

It is simply an archive. But nothing is ever simple. Michelle duBois, one of a number of aliases, kept a lot of pictures of herself. Turning tricks in the Pacific Rim during the ‘70s, she took on many guises for her particular profession and kept fanatical documentation of her many dramatic transformations.

I talked with Crosher after the show and her recent talk at the Aperture Foundation and got her take on her work:

What is “the Unravelling of Michelle duBois”?

It’s the both literal unending and falling apart of the narrative of the archive as well as the physicality of the analog archive. I am very interested in collapsing the intention of the work with the medium, and it is within this digital moment, with the end of the analog photography and all the physicality that it entails, that all the varying layers of physical degradation of the film take on other levels of meaning.
Where does the archivist in you end and the artist or subject of the work begin?

I’ve been concentrating on collapsing the archivist/artist/subject persona. What is most important to remember is that this is not a biographical project in any sort of literal sense. The archive is NOT presented chronologically nor in any sort of documentary fashion. All my work is about approaching things from a satellite point of view, looking at the (empty) center from all the surrounding viewpoints.

Could Michelle DuBois happen today?

No, I don’t think so. She was galavanting around Asia at a very particular historical moment that was post-wwII and in the middle of the Vietnam War. Asia was not so powerful economically and there were still a subtle sense of Pacific Rim colonialism in the air. Remember too, like the physicality and heaviness of her actual analog archive, international travel was also daunting. The New International had not taken hold and globetrotting had not become a sport.

However, the epic story of the small town girl going out into the big world will never change – only the way it is acted out and told will be. They are all Michelle duBois / Blanche duBois / etc.

Unravelling Identity

How do you reconcile this work with your other work?

I am obsessed with transience, travel, movement and all that promises it (doesn’t) deliver – that schism between the anticipated and the expected and the reality – I’m interested in the in between place, the almost already, the just happened or the promise of the perpetual present – all types of interstitial spaces.

This is the inspiration for the next series of books that (I hope) Aperture will be publishing – a series of books coming out over the next couple of years, each a living, breathing archive with images added and taken away each time, all the text and reviews (and this article probably) incorporated as textual fragments, sometimes included, sometimes forgotten, different covers on different papers – working in a very similar way to how remembering, and most importantly, misremembering actually works.

Unravelling Identity

Some additional images via James Wagner

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