Architectural Intersections

Childhood memories are few and far between for me; I am not sure why, but I do not seem to remember as much as other people do. Having said that, I recently recalled how as a young child I used to lounge on a couch with my head hanging off the edge to look at the room upsidedown. Obviously, looking at the ceiling in this way merely offered up a mirrored image of the floor, yet, this minor change in point of view enabled me to enter a parallel universe where architecture was turned on its head. This past summer, while lying flat on my back in my current apartment, I glanced up over the top of my head; all of a sudden, my very modest apartment was transformed into a place that I wanted to explore. Unlike my childhood excursions, I was now armed with a large-format view camera. By pointing the lens slightly above the quotidian objects of our everyday lives I was able to examine the inverted image on the ground glass and see this familiar place through fresh eyes, which has resulted in this new series of photographs, titled Architectural Intersections.

It had never crossed my mind, until beginning this new work, that my interest in interior architectural spaces may very well have had its beginnings in that childhood game that I played over thirty years ago. Yet, on a number of occasions over the past nine years, well before recalling the memory mentioned above, I have addressed the subject of interior architectural spaces in my practice as an artist. Architectural Intersections builds upon two of these previous bodies of work—Below the Surface (2007) and The Spaces In Between (2000-2003). Both earlier projects examine the non-spaces—areas between the walls (The Spaces In Between) and the substratum of walls just prior to being painted (Below the Surface)—within architectural spaces. This older work, as well as the newer series, was made in order to shed new light on the spaces that we inhabit, but do not often consider on a deeper level—to call to mind the ways in which the human body and mind interact with, and are effected by, architectural spaces.

The sharply focused images in Architectural Intersections describe in great detail the condition of the outermost surfaces within a domestic space—the final layers of paint that seal off the interior spaces where we live. Yet, due to the monotonous and indistinct off-white walls and ceilings, specifics become generalities—the line between a particular place and an anonymous space is blurred. The focus of these new photographs are the points where the walls meet the ceiling, the intersections that define a room (corners), as well as those locations where walls have been built around the architectural substructure (weight-bearing columns and beams) and other internal components (electrical and ventilation systems). The apartment where these images were captured is unique to some degree, but since most homes have walls and ceilings, it is my hope that this work will make others find pleasure in the re-discovery of overly familiar places.

In addition to the disorientation and confusion caused by the simple gesture of displaying the prints upside-down, which magically transforms the ceiling into the floor, this altered perspective places extra emphasis on the basic building blocks of architectural spaces. In the areas where I have photographed, the ceilings and walls look nearly the same, except for the subtle shifts in tonal range caused by the natural window light. The homogeneity of the surfaces makes these photographed spaces appear not quite real, more like architectural models than actual, lived-in places. Yet, if one looks closely enough, it becomes apparent that what from a distance may appear to be a geometrically perfect structure, in fact contains flaws. An unevenly painted section of a wall, a straight line that is not absolutely straight, indentations, cracks, and bumps provide clues that enable one to relocate this ambiguous space back from the unreal—small scale model or digital rendition—to the real.

Dean Kessmann