John Stezaker: Blind
15 February - 17 March
Review by Sofia Gotti
For those who are familiar with the artist’s work, this exhibition punctuates a new phase in John Stezaker’s 40 year career. After winning the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in late 2012 and dazzling Tel Aviv with a new retrospective exhibition last January, Stezaker inaugurates his new video work ‘Blind’ and a series of collages at The approach in London, manifesting his presence in the photography firmament.
The approach is an atypical gallery. After walking through The Approach Tavern to access the exhibition space upstairs, one is faced in the main room with… a video, atypical for Stezaker. ‘Blind’ (2013) is a mad carousel of 24 film stills per second, projected onto a single white wall. Black and white and color images flicker relentlessly making it impossible for the viewer to differentiate or chronologically place them. The immersive experience parades an accelerated history of cinema generating a sense of confusion, marvel and wonder - parallel to Stezaker’s own ‘image fascination’, a term he uses to describe his interest in archival photographs. To create ‘Blind’, Stezaker re-photographed film stills from his extensive archive and montaged the sequence into a digital video. For many years, before his ‘second spring’ was officially dismissed, thanks to his solo exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery in 2010, Stezaker’s practice was assigned with difficulty to the box of photography. As a photographer who rarely ever engages with the photo camera personally, it was debated whether he was in fact one. The Deutsche Börse Prize of course sealed the deal, however this new video work raises further questions on his relationship with the medium. While his collages situated him dwelling over the lines dividing photography, collage and film, which relate to Dada dialectics, this new experiment with the moving image opens new fields for discussion.
In the second and last room of the exhibition ‘Blind’ is complemented by an ever-present selection of canonical collages. Pulling off his trademark influences from Dada and Neo-Surrealism, this series of 6 collages titled ‘Imposters’ (2012-2013) reiterates Stezaker’s acumen in amplifying the associative potential of found images. Drawn from a recently acquired archive of German and Swedish film stills from the 1920s, this playful new body of work typically puns on its title, the ‘Imposter’ forming invasive juxtapositions of disparate filmic stills forced to coexist within the same composition. In the same way that the cropped images falsify the Tableau Vivant, the portrayed figures interject each other invoking Film Noir role-plays where the imposter is the protagonist. ‘Imposters III’ constructs a scene where two men in the midst of a discussion are interjected by a woman at the door from another scenario; in ‘Imposters I’ a young woman playing the piano is interrupted by inquisitive figures in trench coats that, within the two-image collage, enforce the Film Noir imagery.
The two rooms dialogue over a nostalgia of film, of history and pace. Last of a long string of profile raising gallery shows in the naughties, this exhibition does not fail to reveal Stezaker’s witty acumen whilst reaffirming The approach’s sharply focused exhibition program. After all, repetita juvant!
 His only ever shown video work is titled Horse, and was shown at the Frieze Art Fair in London in 2012.