Following her successful international debut at the 2007 Venice Biennale, in which she showed her ongoing project American Servicemen and Women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan (but not including the wounded, nor the Iraqis, nor the Afghans), Kent Gallery is pleased to present the first solo New York exhibition of the Bay Area artist Emily Prince. The Way It Used to Be has been planned as a multifaceted installation exploring the psychological phenomenon of nostalgia. This current body of work is a continuation of her inquiry into how humans deal with loss, here investigating the simultaneous vulnerability and resilience of remembrance as a coping mechanism.
Prince takes a naturalist approach, using systematic processes to study the act of looking romantically at the past and its resulting glow. Ultimately leaving the tension unresolved, the work opens up an ambiguous space in which it makes palpable but slippery the voids, illegibilties and erasures of memory’s inextricable partner: forgetting. Progressing reluctantly towards disintegration, the (perceived) initial clarity of mimesis breaks down: patterns turn chaotic, things disappear, edges blur, surfaces crumple, and the aim of reproduction fails. By investigating various methods of attempted preservation, Prince makes a medium out of the very impossibility of capturing the past, probing the layers of memory’s fragility, instability, and unwieldiness.
In The Way It Used to Be, Prince utilizes materials collected from life: a vintage photograph of a child’s birthday party, hand-crafted zoopraxiscopes, a doily crocheted by her grandmother, Maria Esperanza Valdez Cordova, pseudo-scientific tests on recollection, done in watercolor, paper cut-outs from found photographs, an installation of pressed leaves, and gravestone-rubbing-like drawings of large sedimentary rock faces.
The American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (but Not Including the Wounded, nor the Iraqis nor the Afghans) project is documented by an online archive located at www.alloftheamericanservicemenandwomen.com for complete public access. Most recently, this project was reinstalled at the Wanås Foundation, Sweden in a project curated by Elna Svenle entitled Förlust.