Co-presented with Gallery TPW
Often working with staged objects and performative actions across disciplines, Scarborough-based artist Erika DeFreitas’ new body of work explores intuitive processes and their representation as extended ways of knowing. Influenced by 19th- and early-20th-century spirit and occult photography, It is now here that I have gathered and measured yes. employs camera and cameraless photographic techniques that recall the medium’s important role in the heyday of the Spiritualist movement. Used as a tool to both prove and demystify paranormal activities, the spirit photography and seance documentation of the time perform a multitude of positions on belief, disbelief, and desire for something to exist beyond linear time and the material plane.
Historical photographs of seances and levitating tables, as well as the images created to disprove them, serve as research and source material for solvent transfers and new photographs in a stammer inclined still. (2019) and Everything repeats itself but all this has never ever happened before. (2019). Far from taking one side in debates about photography’s ability to capture truth or evidence, DeFreitas’ work asks these questions of itself, pointing to the medium’s multifarious uses as a prosthetic extension of human perception, a collaborative search procedure, and a practice of attunement.
She may be moved and they multiplied most in exaggeration. (2018) is a series of photographs that emerged out of the artist’s residency at Scotland’s historic Hospitalfield House, founded by monks as a hospice during the 13th century. Feeling estranged and attempting to ground herself within the particular context of the residency, DeFreitas was compelled to spend time with objects that had accrued in the space over time. Within their stories she hoped to identify a presence of racialized bodies like her own. Sitting with the house collections she felt affinity to, such as mineral specimens and maps, DeFreitas used photography and writing to document her process of engaging in the intuitive practice of psychometry—an attempt to read through touch information about the people and events, histories and affects, associated with inanimate objects.
In a related gesture, the photograms created for may they or may they seize (2019) are the result of the artist activating objects she has been drawn to and collected over time. DeFreitas refers to these as “objects that glow.” Through a cameraless darkroom performance, DeFreitas holds the object over photographic paper, moving it around while exposing it to light in one continuous gesture. Perhaps a new kind of aura photography, the result could be read as the energy of the artist’s relationship to each collected piece.
DeFreitas’ use of photographic processes helps her to attend to objects and their histories, while providing evidence of her psychic investment and her attunement to building relationships with them. As a gesture that reaches both backward and forward in time, DeFreitas places her own body in images of her object relations. As printed photographs, her perceptions and images become material objects in their own right, holding the energy of the layers of their own making for future audiences drawn to behold them.
Curated by Kim Simon