The photography world bid a fond farewell at the end of 2008 to Polaroid film, spawning Ebay auction frenzy and inciting frustration (all right, downright heartbreak!) among the many devotees of that magical little square of instant nostalgia. What do us artsy, Polaroid-loving folks do when the going gets tough? Why, celebrate of course. Opening at Space Gallery this Friday, March 20 Instant Gratification: A Tribute to the Pursuit of Polaroid is a group exhibition of Polaroid photography and Polaroid inspired art. Over 20 artists will have multiple works up showcasing various Polaroid formats from straight 600 film instant prints to emulsion lifts and transfers to paintings. In addition to taking advantage of Space Gallery’s full bar, getting down to DJs must.not.die and Mr. Mention and basking in the glow of well over a hundred artworks, a “faux-to” booth complete with interchangeable backgrounds and props will entice gallery-goers to get creative and make their own Polaroid print, and then place it within a constantly evolving live art piece. The revelry begins at 8 pm and will continue into the wee hours, so mark your calendar and satiate your craving for a night of all things Polaroid!
Read the full story to learn more about the show, read the curator’s statement and get a dose of Polaroid history.
Space Gallery presents:
Instant Gratification: A Tribute to the Pursuit of Polaroid
Opening revelry: Friday, March 20
8 PM until quite late
A group exhibition featuring various forms of Polaroid photography (from the OneStep to the SX-70 to the I-Zone) and Polaroid inspired art.
Curated by Susannah Magers
Featuring the artwork of:
Raquelle Armendariz, Seza Bali, Matthew Beier, Kurt Burdick, Angela Barber, Jeffrey Dojillo, Andrew Goodrich, Alison Kranz, Karen Goldman, Jessica Lewis, Dave Lloyd, Norman Locks, Susannah Magers, Renee Peck, Andrew Newcomb, Mia Ollikainen, Jordan Quintero, Piper Robbins, Bill Samios, Constance Smith, Jessica Taylor, Jessica Tata, and Joshua York.
As society continues its perpetual search for the next best thing, that which is not of utmost convenience is replaced. This is especially true as of late in the world of photography. The photographic community has watched, with mixed feeling, as brands that once held prominent places within the analog photography market, like AGFA, are deemed poor investments and thus made obsolete, most notably by the advent of digital technology.
AGFA’s website addresses the decision for the company to cease production of the photographic papers and film it’s known for with an almost taunting two sentences: “Films, photo paper and chemistry come and go. Quite problematic when they go and you still need some…” The cessation of the production of Polaroid instant film in 2008 serves as the most recent example of this industry makeover. Like AGFA, a larger conglomerate takeover resulted in the re-branding of the name; in Polaroid’s case on digital and electronic products. It is this transitional period and the accompanied bittersweet feeling of an end of an era that serves as the genesis of and informs the foundation for this exhibition.
Instant Gratification seeks to at once celebrate what Polaroid was and comment on what it has become. From its beginning in 1937, Polaroid has championed a pioneering spirit. American scientist Edwin Land’s discovery of how to harness polarized light, by aligning and embedding light crystals in a confined space, was originally applied towards vision technology in the form of polarized sunglasses, as well as numerous military uses during WWII. This development also led to the advent of the Land Camera, in 1947, which transformed both the commercial and personal photography landscape in that it provided a user friendly, self-contained darkroom to the masses.
The magic of Polaroid actually lay in the illusion of simplicity; though technically impressive they were also flawed by numerous glitches. Despite this, the American public fell in love with Polaroid. In it’s over half a century of production, Polaroid produced over 20 million instant cameras. While Land’s drive to improve was no doubt an asset to the development of the instant camera, this obsessive updating also caused the Polaroid Corporation to overextend itself financially. Ultimately, after losing the passport and ID photo markets to digital technology, lingering debt from the SX-70 camera and instant movie film investments, and a series of meticulously updated but poorly manufactured cameras conceived in a last gasp attempt to stay relevant in the market, Polaroid filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2001.
The scope of Land’s vision is evident in the ambitious multiple applications for his technological invention, and in Polaroid’s evolution as a company. It is in this spirit that the work for this exhibition comes together. It is mirrored in the myriad ways the different processes have been interpreted and applied by the artists in this show. From straight 600 film instant prints, to the emulsion lifts and transfers, to paintings from and inspired by Polaroid prints, the work pays tribute to the idea of what a Polaroid image evokes: the capture of a moment, and the beauty and unexpected resolution in perceived imperfection. An element of deception exists. It is easy to overlook the science and intricacy behind what it takes to produce that seemingly disposable moment in time.
The Polaroid is simultaneously a two dimensional visual and a tangible object: an immediate, precious and one of a kind archival of life. In keeping with the notion of the instantaneous the “faux-to” booth introduces a participatory element, in which participants can create their own Polaroid image in a “faux-to” booth complete with props and backgrounds, and then place their print within a constantly evolving live art piece. The idea that museums and galleries are sacred spaces for the exceptional and preserved is engaged and represents the place Polaroid, ironically, now holds in our culture.
What was once considered purely convenient documentation has been elevated in value to a rare status. No longer available at the local drugstore, or even photography store, enthusiasts must now troll cyberspace and Ebay to obtain Polaroid film. Polaroid thus serves as one of the countless examples of what quietly goes extinct every day in our rapidly changing world. Despite this, in its waning moments, Polaroid continues to maintain a relationship with its roots, with its most recent photographic endeavor, the hybrid PoGo, a digital incarnation of the original instant camera. The implications of this change are up for debate. Let us stimulate new ideas and embrace what Polaroid has been, and create a dialogue on what it is becoming.
- R.I.P. Polaroid (1930s-2008)
- M.I.S.S. Techcessories: Urban Outfitters x The Impossible Project Polaroid Kit
- M.I.S.S. Techcessories: Polaroid Two Instant Digital Camera
- M.I.S.S. Techcessories: Polaroid Grey Label by Lady Gaga
- M.I.S.S. Techcessories: Polaroid One 600 Designed By Paul Giambarba