Jacob Charles Wilson

The Distracted City for Sweet Debris

The facade of a building stands draped in scaffolding and a protective gauze, torn and folded by the wind.

Early in the year I was happy to be asked by Phoebe Kiely to contribute an essay on her new body of work, shown as part of Sweet Debris. Wandering through an anonymous city Kiely's roaming camera comes across the corners, the puddles, the patches of shade and cracked pavements. A semblance of an interior life is only glimpsed through thin gauzes or the sheen of glass panes. I took up Kiely's pictures with Eugene Atget and Walter Benjamin in mind, seeing in their work the same aimless wandering and the same uncertain and yet so-familiar vision of the city. In Kiely's work I saw an artist at the crossroads, torn in different directions, uncertain of their next step.

While photographs bear the semblance of wholeness they are palimpsests, layers of chemical merged and compressed. In making a photograph there are details lost and details gained. They are marked by mistakes, scratches, and dust. Comprising so many parts they often find themselves in contradiction, each photograph makes a statement and a denial—this was here and yet not like this.

The Distracted City is published by Sweet Debris.