Review by Gerhard Clausing •
This innovative artist book by Douglas Stockdale brings to mind the parable “Before the Law” by Franz Kafka, in which a man is confronted by what seems to be an overwhelming obstacle and fails to overcome it, even though he could have, as we who are the readers readily understand. How often in life are we confronted by small barriers that can easily become seemingly overwhelming…
Here is a photobook of innovatively presented and artfully sequenced freeway observations. The 31 photographs that Douglas Stockdale has arranged in leporello (accordion) fashion constitute a panorama of barriers. We sense the static moments of being stuck in stop-and-go traffic, repeated moments sufficient to take photographs of dividers put up for traffic purposes, with ‘beautification’ planters placed behind them. There is the aggravation of heavy traffic along the Interstate 5 route toward the border in San Diego; there is the annoyance and challenge of being separated from that which lies beyond the barriers. And we observe details: some houses, some palm trees, the national flag almost beyond reach, and other structures to which we can’t immediately relate. And yet there must be other people there … who and where might they be? And some of the barriers are much less than perfect, they show damage or are surrounded by debris. It is a less than perfect, seemingly endless constructed landscape.
So we can consider this project, which is a typology of barriers, a metaphor for the barriers and separators of all kinds that people wish to throw between and among us. Especially in our current moment in time there are many whose main task is to foment social, racial, and/or economic anger and pin it on the “others,” whether we are talking about ethnic, social, economic, or other groups.
Can we overcome these barriers? Of course we can. Look at Stockdale’s images: there are gaps one can squeeze through, there are small boards or a bit of sand to help us take the first step beyond, to let the middle ground lead us toward reaching a better understanding of those that may be different, yet almost within reach. In every country there are many ethnic, economic, religious groups or segments of the population with somewhat different belief systems, individual preferences, or somewhat different shades of skin color that some wish to marginalize or not give the full respect they deserve. It is important to overcome such barriers and to take the all-important steps toward others. Truly united societies require respectful collaboration rather than splintering into subgroups, and Stockdale’s visual compendium can be an impetus toward overcoming barriers and obstacles.
This project invites each viewer to engage with the presentation and to find individual meanings. It is my guess that this photobook, which has been given a bilingual slant but no artist admonition as to its interpretation, will become quite a collector’s item. I would advise you to get your copy while you can, as the edition is very small. For those of you who can make it to L.A. this weekend, Stockdale will give an artist presentation about this work at the closing reception of the exhibition on Saturday, June 2, 2018, at 4-7 p.m., Fabrik Projects Gallery, 2636 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA (near Culver City).
The PhotoBook Journal has previously featured or reviewed the following other books by Douglas Stockdale: Ciociaria, In Passing, Pine Lake, Bluewater Shore, and Guide to Self-Publishing an Indie Artist Book.
Photographer: Douglas Stockdale (born in Butler, PA; living in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
Self-published artist book of 31 images hand-bound by the artist in an accordion (leporello) presentation, yielding 66 pages (blank verso), attached to stiff covers with flip-over French fold; 8.5×6.75 inches; printed in four-color lithography by Dual Graphics, Brea, California; edition of 99 plus 5 artist proofs; © 2018
Text: English and Spanish
Photobook Designer: Douglas Stockdale
Fabrik Projects gallery, Los Angeles, May 2018