Dan Holdsworth • Photographer, U.K

A Sublime Perception

Landscape Stories: Do you have also a romantic approach of the nature? Mountains become ethereal figures or geometric in which to get lost …
Dan Holdsworth: I find space and great inspiration in nature and in science, and for making and thinking, my process involves being outside, in the world, so this means that also I often find my starting point for a work reflecting upon the contemporary world while photographing in what could be termed Wilderness. This space need not always be a distant wilderness. I find the NATURAL in-between places, the transgressive zones that grow at the edge of towns and industrial/post industrial areas equally freeing. In a sense reflecting from nature has become reflecting from the edge. It is the edge/boundary that is most compelling, where we see things become visible. I have always found it very interesting that George Orwell wrote his seminal book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ while living a remote existence on the island of Jura in the wilderness of Scotland.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Forms', 2013
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Forms', 2013
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Forms', 2013
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Forms', 2013

Landscape Stories: Phenomenology of technology, place, and consciousness are mere starting points for your photographs; neither documentations nor fictions, your landscapes evoke haunting evidence, a kind of knowledge that extends beyond immediate cognition. Can you tell me?
Dan Holdsworth: One of my great interests with PHOTOGRAPHY is the nature of its process which is by default of the interaction of light with a light sensitive receptor, a process inately defined by light, and so by time. Light and time in a photograph are combined in one inseprable material. It seems to me that current human culture has very great/grave difficulty in processing concepts of time, while global capitalism deals in a consumption of time that does not allow for a wider ecology of time to be exoplored. As such we are bound in a system in which the growth of scientific knowledge and acceleration of global capitalism appear to be on a collission course. Photography as a process fundamentally defined and made of time material has the capacity to communicate ideas about human relations to time which in the conext of our current cultural climate I believe give a great source for people to rethink their relationships with nature.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Geothermal Power Plant', 2000-2007

Landscape Stories: What is for you the Sublime?
Dan Holdsworth:For me the Sublime is the condition of the human mind in relation to knowledge, an ever moving frontier developed in the space of feedback of science in relation to perception, in particular perception of time, the sublime is the feedback the mind gives into art as a perceptual reflex finding a place for new thought/ways of seeing in the ‘space’ of new scientific understanding/technology. The most obvious historical example of this is the impact on the human conciounes of the scientific discovery of geological time. Geological science ‘aged’ the Earth and completely altered mans place within its history. This relationship between science and nature and this FEEDBACK through the sublime coniniue.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Blackout', 2010

Landscape Stories: Can you tell me about Megalith? Where familiar scenes of service stations, car parks, billboards, or broadcast towers loom as the ‘a no – places’ of Marc Augé and a lot of images of the history of American art.
Dan Holdsworth: Yes, absolutely these non places exist as the by-product of the capitalist machine, were first given to exploration in works by artists living in America and Germany, Ed Ruscha’s car parks, the industrial parks of Lewis Baltz, the Bechers industrial by-product infrastructures. Megalith 2000 and 2002 depict the reverse of an advertising billboard next to a motorway in Holland and California. In photographing from the back and over-exposed, accentuating the joining of the structures light to space, the intensions of the structure are subverted revealing something more fundamental and archaic about modernity. The works I created around this time started to employ a way of working with light, that placed these forms in two ways, one they have a resonanace that looks upwards, it repositions the work within a greater wilderness of our universe, the archaic, technology is the extended human wildernesss, and two I explore the space of these architectures through a strategy/deception of scales, such as they can appear to be almost virtual models of the world rather than documents of things, they exist in the minds eye… This is important as it gives distance to the subject in order to view the human world from a very different position.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Megalith', 2000-2002

Landscape Stories:Your series recast the world with renewed mystifying power: as liminal spaces between reality and its dissolve. What do you think?
Dan Holdsworth:Again, it is very much to do with a distancing/dislocating of the subject from the accepted reading, to think of these structures in a new time scale, to reposition the human time scale.
Text:Landscape Stories:How do you choose your subjects?
Dan Holdsworth:Through research, dialogue with fiends, scientists, reading science journals and though travel. With a lot of energy in this process the subject and I find some allignment.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Hyperborea', 2006

Landscape Stories:How would you distinguish your position or interests from that of Hilla and Bernd Becher?
Dan Holdsworth:If I think of taxonomy and photography, they seem to me a pivotal reference. The photographs I make tend to explore more ideas around science, technology and the wider environment. I’m also engaged with the limits of the medium itself, and idea’s around the process and language of the image as material in itself. Most recently I have been working with digital materials, utilising mapping data to produce 3D models from which I render images, working in ways that extend beyond a conventional photographic process.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012

Landscape Stories:Having said all of this, it seems that the question of landscape and where it comes from is one that is calling you.
Dan Holdsworth:Yes, this relates back to the Sublime the relation between our experience of the environment, our perceptions of landscape as driven by science and technology, the sense of the inner and outer wilderness of the perception. I’ve recently been working at Crater Glacier in the US, a 33 year old glacier that has been growing in the crater of the Mount St. Helens volcano since 1980, it is the worlds youngest glacier and will probably never reach any kind of maturity even in human years due to its proximity to the Earths core, but it certainly does raise many questions about time and permanence. It would seem to be a very powerful symbol of the fragile balance of life on Earth.

courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012
courtesy of © Dan Holdsworth from 'Transmission', 2012

Landscape Stories:You have exhibited internationally including solo shows at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and group shows at Tate Britain and Centre Pompidou. You was short-listed for the Beck’s Futures Prize in 2001, ICA, London. Your works is held in collections including the: Tate Collection, Saatchi Collection, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. What about next projects?
Dan Holdsworth:I have recently completed two new works. Transmission and Forms. Transmission was exhibited last year at Brancolini Grimaldi in London and Forms will be exhibited for the first time at Scheublein Fine Art in Zurich in June. The next projects involve working more closely with scientists and the material of science and mapping.

Interview curated by Camilla Boemio