Moldy Slide

Moldy Slides

Series of works including projection of found moldy 35mm slides with soundtrack including live musical elements (performed at The Museum of Jurassic Technology, Hammer Museum, UCLA, Echo Park Film Center, and various other Los Angeles and West Coast venues, 2005 - present), then large printouts of individual slides
(some backlit with lightboxes), and a feature-length movie made entirely of moldy slides fading one into the next.

Here is an excellent review of the exhibition at Jancar Gallery in 2014, written by Shana Nys Dambrot for Whitehot Magazine

"I have always been drawn to ‘found’ art – semi-intentionally brilliant cultural castoffs like thrift store paintings, songpoem recordings, love-letters and rap lyrics blowing in the street – not to mention the whole strain of Modern Art epitomized by Kurt Schwitters and Robert Rauschenberg that takes the detritus of Western visual culture and reconfigures it into new, eye-awakening configurations.

So it wasn’t so unlikely for me to be rooting through the mounds of refuse piled up outside the house of “The Edendale Packrat” – a classic hoarder whose entire car except for the driver’s seat was packed, floor to ceiling, with scavenged crap from the street. It seems that his house was equally crammed, because over the course of several months – possibly as a result of a court intervention – wave after wave of jestsam washed out to the curbside from his dingy bungalow, filling industrial sized dumpsters over and over again.

There was every conceivable item – football helmets, lamps, bicycle wheels, board games, stuffed animals, cooking utensils, on and on. I’ve been attempting to cut down on my own packrat tendencies lately, but I couldn’t resist rescuing several thousand 35mm slides that appeared over a period of several days. They seemed to date from the 70’s and be from the same family – a swinging middle aged man and his sexy wife, partial to safaris and pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

Many of the slides were pristine, and interesting in their own way. Some were water damaged or scratched and still others had grown mould on the emulsion – some of it a furry green variety in a plushy quarter inch pile on the surface of the slide. On some the mould had distorted the imagery or overlaid organic patterns like a 60’s light show. Others had had their colors bled out. Some had been turned into complete abstractions.

I cleaned them all with tap water and dried them out, then laboriously sorted them down from about 1000 to a slide tray of 140, for which I created a soundtrack (old hypnosis records and live musical saw) and presented at several Los Angeles venues. The response has been tremendous. I keep thinking how blown away I’d be to walk into an art gallery and see these things blown up to painting-size.

Normally I’m hesitant to enthuse about my own work, but in this case I feel like I’m only one of a string of collaborators, starting with the original photographer, the Packrat of Edendale, the mould itself, and the live audience or readers of Strange Attractor (also the anonymous hypnotists and saw player Christian Cummings). And I think these are some of the most beautiful and compelling visual images I’ve seen in a long time. All hail the Aesthetics of Mould!"

Published in Strange Attractor Journal #2 (2005)

Doug Harvey: Found Moldy Slides
Jancar Gallery, Los Angeles
March 15 - April 12, 2014


Doug Harvey is a writer, and artist, and a curator whose conceptual practice and choices in medium, platform, and style can best be summed up as “all of the above” or better yet, as doing whatever is necessary to serve a particular idea. He writes, mostly about art, interchangeably from personal and broader critical and historical viewpoints. He curates in order to redeem the unjustly overlooked, or to subvert the perceived status quo in other ways. He himself paints, draws, photographs, makes and assembles music, and is a self-confessed quasi-hoarder and aficionado of the overlooked, discarded, and random in our visual culture. For these and other reasons, he has always been drawn toward what he calls “found art” -- which sometimes means perceiving the artistic value in non-traditional materials like old-timey advertising, underground illustration, outsider painting, and anonymous gestures. He does not always make his own art out of the actual found materials however -- one thing he is not is an assemblage sculptor -- but instead draws both direct and indirect inspiration and some inscrutable satisfaction from the discoveries themselves. In the case of his new exhibition Found Moldy Slides at Chinatown’s Jancar Gallery, however, it truly is a case of “all of the above.”
On view are a selection of about a dozen large-scale photographic prints, indeed produced from a collection of fungus-encrusted and otherwise distressed slides which Harvey found while essentially going through someone else’s garbage. First published in Mark Pilkington's Strange Attractor Journal #2 in 2005 (as well as becoming a live-presentation, soundtrack-accompanied slideshow) Harvey had discovered this treasure while, as one does, “rooting through the mounds of refuse” outside the house of a locally famous hoarder, the Edendale Packrat. Harvey “rescued” thousands of slides over a period of several days, all of which “seemed to date from the 70’s and be from the same family -- a swinging middle aged man and his sexy wife, partial to safaris and pilgrimages to Jerusalem.” Many were in fine shape but the ones that really piqued Harvey’s interest were those that had been damaged to varying degrees by water, moss-like mold, and who knows what else. He cleaned them up and started working with them, and eventually felt that quite a few would be worth printing large -- at something approaching the scale of the abstract expressionist paintings they so closely resemble. The results are nothing short of arresting.

Some images do look like tumultuous abstract paintings, with color field riots composed of accumulated densities of detail evocative of geological features or galactic nebulae. Some remain self-evidently photographs but appearing as though they might have been hand-embellished, tinted, or otherwise eccentrically processed. Some images retain or conceal aspects of themselves (architectural landmarks from Rome to Auschwitz, unnamed but presumably important people) in ways that are so affecting as to seem quite deliberate. All have had their original documentary function compromised in one way or another -- and yet it is precisely those debilitations that give the work their power. As visually compelling and seductive as the images are, the added dimension of wonderment at how they came to exist heightens their strength as objects, lending them an ambiguity the photographer was not going for as well as a mysterious and independent life story of their own he or she could never have predicted. They are powerful because they were both intentional and unattended, discarded by one stranger and rescued by another, documents now of another kind of journey. None of which would matter nearly as much if they were not so flat-out gorgeous.
And they are just as fascinating on a conceptual/semantic level, introducing issues of authorship, truth, transcendence, intention, control, chaos, narrative, meaning, and analog physicality into a larger conversation about photography in the digital era. As Harvey has said, “I feel like I’m only one of a string of collaborators, starting with the original photographer, the Packrat of Edendale, and the mold itself.” They are also a bit shocking because their beauty is the result of something rather repulsive and thus unexpected, which heightens the magic and the weirdness as well as the joy. The obstacles to their legibility only serve to draw the viewer deeper in, creating opportunities for audiences to make their own discoveries within the pictures, to retrace Harvey’s own experience with them -- but without the dumpster-diving.

Moldy Slides Gallery