Afterimage: Afterimage I (2012); Afterimage II (2014); Afterimage III (2014); Afterimage IV (2014)

Matthew Cornford, David Cross

Research output: Non-textual outputExhibition


Afterimage is a set of works which we made by removing and destroying our photographs, which had previously been conservation mounted onto aluminium substrates by John Jones of London. For example, Afterimage I is produced from a photograph which we had mounted and exhibited at Artefiera Bologna, Italy, in 2004, then returned to London and placed in storage. By 2012, speculation on London property had made the pressure on space intolerable, and at last we decided to dispose of the work. Meaning to recycle the aluminium, we tore off the photograph, but when we saw the exposed metal we began an unexpected enquiry, at the level of the substrate under the picture plane. Afterimage embodies the process of its own (un)making: our removal and destruction of the photograph transforms the work from image to object, exposing the substrate as part of a wider support structure. With its high strength to weight ratio, aluminium is essential to aviation and aerospace, yet its production demands vast quantities of energy that result in high levels of CO2 emissions. So using aluminium as a substrate for artworks links contemporary art as a form of conspicuous consumerism with the corporate infrastructure of military-industrial globalisation. The relationship between value and scarcity is socially produced. The number of our photographs that we could remove and destroy was limited by the moment in time when we recognised the idea. As an element, aluminium signifies a certain purity. But its over-use has made it banal, and so dispersed attention from its nature as a profligate material, loaded with ecological and social debt. Afterimage is complicit in destruction-as-production. Yet the work also proposes that by accepting material limits and the irreversible nature of certain decisions, the possibilities increase for transformation from one state to another.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2014
Eventexhibition - Brighton Photo Biennial; Unseen Photo Fair, Amsterdam; London Art Fair; Oriel Sycharth Gallery, Wrexham University; Art Brussels, Contemporary Art Fair, Brussels
Duration: 4 Oct 2014 → …

Bibliographical note

© authors Matthew Cornford and David Cross


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