Sasha Phyars-Burgess

2021

My concern is with sight. What it can and cannot tell me, what I do and do not see. What America has allowed me to understand, and therein all the things I will never know just by seeing.

I use photography because its function is simple. It allows one to look.

Photography isn’t a tool through which one understands, but rather the surface through which we all see. It is the veneer of facts, a basis of science- structurally- it is evidence of nothing, but holds the weight of empirical manifestation. Photography is the exterior, it is never the real. What it does is it allows me to look a little bit longer and ask a few more questions- of myself, and of what I am looking at. It forces me to question what I believe and what I think I know. Photography is not truth, and it is not a lie, it is all the things in between that- it is the gap between knowing and seeing. It is the trouble with assumptions and the seduction of sight.

Plainly, I am interested in photographing black people. Blackness- whatever that may be. Its curse, its weight, its absolute splendor, its terrifying beauty. I’m interested in all the places this blackness exists and how it chooses (or is forced) to do so. I am interested in representation. Not the simplistic notion of being included (an optical illusion at best) but how representation can affect one’s life. Where do black people get to be seen? Why are they seen there? Can they be seen anywhere else? What are the limits of black existence (none)? And how can I stress the point of this limitlessness in the face of blind destruction?

To ask these questions of myself, and the viewer, I use photography distilled through prints or projections and accompanied by sound or music as a mode of control and dissidence from the notion of the still photograph. I would like to take the viewer to a certain place and then leave them there to deal with themselves. I have no real answers only questions- my only goal is to lead the viewer to the (a) question(s)- not to provide an answer, this is their burden.

I say all of this to say that I have been born into a society that is based on the categorical assumption of optics (sight) as a means to determine what is, who is. I would like to complicate these notions. I would like to see better.

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