William Lamson - Actions

Exhibition: 10 June to 11 July, 2009

William Lamson

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William Lamson is a Brooklyn based artist, interested in photography, sculpture and performance. Using simple materials he creates structures and scenarios full of pathos and humour.

With a 24-minute video of 33 short performances and accompanying photographic images, Lamson’s series Actions documents the fates of numerous ill-fated black balloons. In contrast to his “scientific” approach, invoked by a stark white background and serious demeanour, the equipment and activities he depicts are unsophisticated and somewhat improbable. His understated “actions” employ low-tech props such as darts, ropes and pellet guns, or simply gravity’s unavoidable pull, and more often than not end badly for the balloons.

Lamson combines the amateur’s meager budget and compensatory surfeit of imagination with the whimsical and haphazard nature of helium balloons, to create a dialogue of both hope and failure. By enacting a series of grand, though often self-defeating experiments, his work addresses the universality of human struggle and how we create meaning through adversity. With his fictional explorations, Lamson hopes to elicit the sense of hope, possibility and wonder that motivates amateurs and artists alike.

Lamson found his artistic voice after reading “Professionals and Amateurs,” an essay by Edward Said. In it, Said champions the virtue of amateurism, “the desire to be moved not by profit or reward but by love or an unquenchable interest in the larger picture, in making connections across lines and barriers, in refusing to be tied down by speciality.” In turn, lamenting the effect of professionalism to limit curiosity, destroying one’s sense of excitement and discovery.

For Lamson, feeling fenced in by the style of photography he had studied for years rather than artistically free to do as he wished, this essay struck a chord. Recognising how the history of photography and the history of flight were both pioneered by amateurs, his response was to build a 3-metre paper airplane before photographing it at night, marking the beginning of his earlier work, the Sublunar project (shown at Stills in 2007) and an expanded working process that included sculpture and video.