Emil Salto Danish, b. 1968


Emil Salto's Mute Science consists of black-and-white photograms, which are images produced solely by the imprint of light on photo paper, without a camera. As such, they are their materials. While making the series, the artist turned, as he describes it, a “deaf ear to the exacting science of photography.” Taking the camera out of the equation, he relied on intuition and feel, rather than mechanical tools and automated timing. Enveloped in complete darkness — without the aid of red safe light — he repeatedly moved four individual cardboard pieces, together forming a square, inviting the possibility of “mistakes” as he exposed the photo paper to light. Deliberately cutting himself off from the faculty of sight, the artist was guided only by a mental image of space. The works are thus both indexes of their making using the most basic photographic process and images of worlds beyond, conjured in the mind.


The result is a series of variations on the same basic compositional scheme. Square and rectangular rims and indifferent gradations between the poles of black and white repeat themselves concentrically to form narrowing vantage points. Each image is unique — the result of a delicate interplay between intention, evolving technique, and chance. Several photograms reveal flawed rims, resulting from the rough edges on the cardboard used to control light exposure. The crooked slants of multiple images bear witness to the manual process of photogrammetry and, moreover, the imperfect communication between the provisional partitur (intention) and the movement of the artist’s hands.

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