IN THE STUDIO WITH ELLIE GA
by Tina Burton
Angle Magazine, #20, 6/2005

In her Manhattan studio, Ellie pulls down a shoebox and hands me a lab notebook, the kind with the faint greenish blue pages--graph paper on one side, lined on the opposite. Inside are images of human stains. Leaves of vellum precede each photo with notes that read as a field book of spit, piss, and other classifiable human deposits on the urban streetscape.

According to Ellie, "The spit stain is a natural occurrence created by people living in unnatural settings [and] falls under the study of garbology... Through garbology, human discards and waste patterns contribute to the understanding of people both past and present." In each carefully worded description, the "garbology" field student is informed of the size, characteristic pattern on impact, physical composition, and common localities for each specimen.

Influenced by the work of Agn├Ęs Varda, Ellie's methods for art-making are not unlike the gleaners in the film "Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse." Just as they scoured the already harvested fields for unnoticed or rejected turnips and potatoes, Ellie combs our urban, visual, social, and historical landscapes to record the ripe, overlooked traces of our human existence. This field study approach to the world as a critical archivist-observer results in work that builds relationships between our individual human behaviors and those of the collective whole.

During regular visits to the New York Public Library Picture Collection, Ellie culls indexed groupings of images that possess socio-political significance. In another form of harvesting, the text is used to bump words such as "U.S." against implicitly inherent meanings associated with the prefixes "Poli" and "Pollu." These occurrences within a systematic cataloguing system hold a mirror to the social systems from which they are derived.

In another of her books, entitled "Photos not taken," each page of a hand-sewn photo album frames a 4x6-inch scene description. Amidst phrases such as, "Ten in the shadow" and "Philip removing rubbish from the graves. He is eight years old," one's mind sifts through its own personal catalogue of visual imagery to construct multiple photographic scenarios. Immediately aware of the position of artist, viewer, and object, the desire to see the photo is countered with an equally conflicting desire to have one's own fabricated version be the only existing image of this shared personal experience.

This perceptual play also feeds into more expansive photographic and multi-media installations. Large, tiled photos cover entire walls imposing fractured and transplanted spaces onto extant architectural structure. Photographed corners, paintings, baseboards, and electrical outlets all find new position, or superposition, as they force themselves upon their new environment. Again, shifting our relationship with the real, the past, the present, and the imposed.

The strength in this work lies in its sensibility to habitat, text, image and the spoken word. By traversing traditional modes for historical and personal documentation, Ellie Ga's work moves fluidly from image to photographic inference and transplanted memory.

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