Jordan Tate is the founding editor of and is an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Cincinnati. Tate has a Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University, and was a Fulbright Fellow in 2008–2009. His work has been recently exhibited as part of Brand Innovations for Ubiquitous Authorship at Higher Pictures and The New Skew, curated by Lesley A. Martin, at The Center for Photography at Woodstock.

Many thanks to Jordan for taking the time to talk about his artistic practice.

New Work #150, 2012 (detail)
4 Color Newsprint Book, PDF E-Book, pigment prints
© Jordan Tate

Zach Nader: How did you get started in image making? Who and what were some of your early influences?

Jordan Tate: I actually would consider the point that I got into image making a fundamentally different point than when I got into photography. I have a rather traditional photographic background, but switched to a broader field of image-based work after some influence by the cadre of Dutch meta-photographers in the early-mid 2000’s, and the non-Dutch early practitioners such as Welling, Williams, and Raad.

ZN: You have previously mentioned an interest in “expanding the notions of what a photograph is, and how that functions…” For you, what makes something photographic?

JT: I have a pretty broad notion of what constitutes a photograph. In recent works, I have started to break down the idea of the photograph into what its function is rather than the process that is utilized to create it, although the process is still crucial. That said, I see the idea of photography, historically, as a mediation on the ways in which we experience the world. This is a super broad usage of the idea of the photography and is rooted more in its function than its form. It is an extension of my view of the photograph as an action (transported of visual content/experience) rather than an object or process — think armchair travel, carte-de-visite, and the internet.

New Work #47, 2011
Pigment print
© Jordan Tate

ZN: There are many types of image making processes. Why is it significant for you to build off of a base of photographic images and traditions? And how do viewers with a casual relationship to photographic image making and viewing respond to your work?

JT: Utilizing the language and process of photography allows me to exist within a very specific context that, while I am firmly embedded in, I am also attempting to explore/dismantle. Photography, in some form or another, is a language that everyone is familiar with – which I believe allows for a more productive dialogue based on this shared context. I would also make the argument that none of us really understand the technical complexity of photography, but we engage in the representational aspects of the medium while ignoring the technical implications of it.

ZN: I know for myself and many of the artists I speak with, the lack of clear, useful, and consistent language around many of the new visualities currently being created is frustrating, while others eschew any language other than the visual. On your website, your New Work series has a rather useful statement that accompanies the visual work. What is the role of language in your practice?

JT: Our thoughts, regardless of their output (written, image, etc.) are fundamentally structured based on our understandings of language. Our social, cultural, and perceptual structures are predicated upon our ability to translate our experience into language. Now, it is fair to say that photography has also restructured our modes of thinking in a manner that allows us to function as both literate and pre-literate – in the sense that literature introduced narrative, logic, and structure to thought and photography is becoming ubiquitous enough to combat some of those fundamental shifts in thought processes.* That all said, I feel that our understandings and perceptions are still fundamentally guided by language, and as such, the moderate use of language as a tool to set context is crucial.

* I don’t like dropping names, but I don’t want to take credit for other peoples ideas either. This thought process is very strongly influenced by the work of Walter J. Ong, Marshall McLuhan, and Vilém Flusser.

ZN: You have previously mentioned Vilém Flusser as someone whose writing has influenced you. When I think of Flusser in relationship to what you are doing, I am reminded about his discussion of images existing to give absurdity meaning in Into the Universe of Technical Images. Which of his ideas most resonate within your practice?

JT: Without sounding like a fanboy, I am consistently blown away by Flusser. Some of my favorites are: The Gesture of Photography, The Gesture of Writing, and Habit: The True Aesthetic Criterion.

Installation view of New Work #141, 2011
Pigment prints, frames
© Jordan Tate

ZN: Many of your works include the figure or elements of the figure, and hands seem especially prominent. What is the significance of gestures and figures for you?

JT: The goal of utilizing these symbols/ideas is two-fold. Much of this work is about process (work) as a method of understanding implication (affect/effect) and the utility of hand/gesture calls that dialogue to mind for me. Other figures (generally Greek) are used to place the dialogue of work as work into the context of art by utilizing our preconceptions and history to canonize process as artwork, allowing the subject to be a vehicle for a discussion of context.

ZN: Based on your recent Kickstarter campaign and obviously extensive research into different types of image outputs and processes, materiality seems to be a significant aspect of your work. What is some of the new research you are doing in this area?

JT: I have been working with an incredible printshop in Paris, Atelier Boba, to explore some dynamic print processes (namely differential gloss and silver nitrate inkjet printing). I have also been exploring with some other alternate methods on my own (laser etching, fading prints, lenticular prints, etc.). The newest project is the diazo salt printing – I am trying to limit the life of a photograph to six to nine months before it fades away.

ZN: Would you talk a little about that idea of having an image purposefully fade, heightening its impermanence? How does this focus on various materialities intersect with your interest in digital work?

JT: Much of the work is coincidentally (in a manner of speaking) digital rather that digital by design. I work digitally because it is the predominant photographic language and has a remarkably rich set of output facility. Materiality, however, is another concern. While the vast majority of my work falls within some “new media” type of landscape, this is a really important aspect for me to explore. I readily admit that there is a very important tactility to much of the work I have been producing recently, which could be arguably anti-digital (if one was trying to pick sides). This is essentially the point though, each process (input, translation, or output) has a very specific set of attributes that govern its perception. I am to address this phenomena both physically through the materiality of the recent works, and conceptually through the content chosen, and the act of approaching process (or processes) as integral parts of any work.

One of the roadblocks I see to presenting (the idea of) photography in a really critical way to a broad audience is that the context is too ingrained in our culture and thought process. Finding a process (such as diazo salt printing) that challenges that notion of the image as an (arguably) permanent record will hopefully challenge the expectations of a photograph and allow for some discourse on a more contemporary and appropriate photographic context.

New Work #141, 2011 (detail)
Pigment prints, frames
© Jordan Tate

ZN: Your blog is a tremendous resource. Do you have an interest in curating exhibitions based on the research you have done? And what else should we be expecting to see from you soon?

JT: I currently have two exhibitions up in Cincinnati, OH as a part of FOTOFOCUS. One is an exhibition titled PHOTOGENUS, which was co-curated by Aaron Cowan at the University of Cincinnati and is, in a sense, an exhibition curated from the (my second). The first was a three-part video art exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center titled Is This Thing On? I really enjoy curating exhibitions and have found to be a good resource for me to narrow down an extremely broad field of contemporary work. I have a few ideas that I am working on that are really physical print processes, or rather digital/physical. I am working on dealing with thermochromic and electrochromic inks, both of which I find remarkably exciting. I have just finished up a piece that is on laser etched museum board that also addresses the idea of digital tactility.

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