Richard T. Walker lays out the terms of his ambivalent relationship with landscape:
‘Acknowledgements of existence that I can project onto, but nothing else’.
In defiance of being here explores his struggle to represent landscape’s otherness, a problem he only partially resolves.
In the middle of California’s Anza Borrego desert, Walker has positioned a screen and projector with which he presents a lecture to his surroundings. Beginning with a deconstruction of the typical landscape photograph – a form of which he is a master – Walker goes on to explore the underlying human impulses behind this type of image.
With the landscape before us, we are placed at the centre: it seems to exist just for us, and this feeling of mastery can lead us to interpret the landscape as a reflection of our own desires.
These works ask how to represent the land while still preserving its separation from ourselves. Will we always re-make it in our own image? Will a representation always amount to colonisation?
These questions emerge from outside of all things and let this be us where Walker literally inserts himself into his surroundings: his body displaces the landscape. Sublime sunsets invite us to do likewise; by framing enticing views, Walker tempts us to visually conquer them, to consume and displace them. We are implicated, and tasked with resisting.
‘We have to create a new situation one where we can once again convince ourselves that [ we are] alien to all this’
The heightened beauty of the photographic work belies Walker’s resolve to not project external values onto the landscape, demonstrating his awareness of the intractable nature of his problem.
In the final images in the proximity of longing series the artist is absent from the scene, but the word ‘ourself’ remains projected on a shrub, suggesting that letting nature dictate the terms is easier said than done.
With the introduction of music, Walker finds a partial solution to the puzzle. Music’s abstract nature offers an emotional, if not intellectual, resolution that bypasses the fixity of narrative and iconography to find a place ‘between and beyond’
Richard T. Walker, in defiance of being here, Carroll / Fletcher, 2013