Elad Lassry — Untitled
Elad Lassry’s project for X-TRA is comprised of four images, all free-floating in the magazine, and each untethered from its original commercial, narrative, or illustrative function. The artist found, scanned, and edited each image, methodically excising any clues to the photograph’s original function. Although each image remains mimetic and legible, the project as a whole is an exercise in stealth abstraction–not of image but of meaning. Just enough detail has been removed that the original purpose of the photograph is made obscure, yet the image remains essentially intact. How much information, Lassry asks, do we require to read an image “accurately,” and how much excision renders the original purpose unrecoverable and meaning fugitive?
In the four images Lassry has selected, mutability is signaled most clearly by the absence of text and/or branding. Though no discernable traces of removal or adjustment remain, and the images appear neither surreal nor uncanny, the ghost of an element erased haunts each. One might speculate, for example, that the smiling toddler once endorsed a baby product; that the Petri dish alludes to stem cell research or, more ominously, biological warfare; that the feats of the inverted acrobat originally graced the pages of Life magazine in the 1950s; or that the detail of a glistening breakfast plate once attested to the culinary delights of IHOP. But in the absence of context or paratexual information, the images appear homeless, subject to narratives and imaginings beyond their original application. Without clear purpose to delimit meaning, all four shade into a lawlessness, becoming objects of speculation and curiosity where they were once instrumental and incidental. With no caption, the plate of food appears gluttonous and abject; with no baby product to provide an alibi for our gaze, why are we being asked to look at a naked baby in a bathtub? Lassry’s images are scattered amongst the pages of this publication like rogue advertisements for nothing in particular, lacking even the most fundamental institutional imprimatur: a caption. Doubly unmoored from their original contexts, his project demonstrates how suggestive even the most mundane of images can be when the terms of their consumption are not subject to the limits of contextualization or instrumentalization.