Amze Emmons: Selections from "Pattern Drift"

  • MODERN TRAVELER 2002-2005

    The politics of architecture, the way our built environments serve to tell the story of both the everyday life of people on this planet and the power structures that influence their lives, emerged as a primary focal point in this body of work. Technology has collapsed most people’s conception of place people. Businessmen and tourists can easily fly across the planet without a thought to the space between departure gates, while people looking for opportunity or refuge have increasingly to sneak across borders. The world is shrinking for those with the privilege of mobility. Simultaneously these conditions are making ‘The Other’ stranger and more fearful to those on the losing end of the global exchange of goods and capital.   


    - Amze Emmons


    Starting in 2005, inspired by the poet Charles Reznikoff's work Testimony, I began making drawings that started by appropriating and heavily editing images from the Sunday edition of The New York Times. The images chosen were necessarily topical as they were all documenting the global trend of war and climate change leading to political and economic destabilization, which then led to massive displacement of people. I was interested in the way news photographs, which are essentially visualized chunks of information, were able to mediate, frame and deliver to us the human narratives in the midst of these epic events. My drawings chose to convey these narratives by focusing on the visual common denominators that these images shared. I distilled the visual signifiers I found in the photographs, stripping them from their journalistic context in order to develop a lexicon of structures, objects, and skylines. I then combined the elements using a "collage consciousness," in the hopes of tracing patterns of connection. I wanted to find a way to show that these images, which can seem so detached in the newspapers and in our minds as we read about them, are actually inherently related.

    My media-isolation experiment is intended not to glorify or monumentalize the dystopic events unfolding around us. My interest is in distilling and cataloging the patterns and forms of our daily world through an intuitive editing process. We normally see these kinds of documentary images as topical, disposable, something to process and consume quickly in the newspaper. By sifting through the pictorial evidence of displacement and strife, I try to discover what is hidden in plain view: essential visual elements that draw crucial lines of connection.    


    - Amze Emmons





    In the summer of 2012, I was invited with four other artists to take up residence at the McColl Center for the Visual Arts in Charlotte, NC. Our residency concluded with the opening of American Now, an exhibition timed to coincide with the Democratic National Convention, occurring in Charlotte that year. My response was Polling Station, and exhibition in two parts exploring questions about the nature of citizens' sense of agency within a democratic system and the physical mechanics of voting. For the first part, I organized a collaborative and participatory print installation revolving around voting. The second part featured a suite of drawings, including these four, which investigated the design of voting booths around the world.


    - Amze Emmons

  • HYBRID LOCAL 2013-2017

    For the past several years I have actively noticed certain kinds of visual phenomena in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, using my Instagram feed (@amzeland) as a kind of public sketchbook. I photograph interesting public phenomena, such as portable and ephemeral building structures, improvised street furniture, and informal sites of exchange that tell a story of local agency, adaption and community. When I travel in other cities around the US and abroad, I inevitably discover parallel phenomena. Our global systems are creating connections and symmetries and local responses to the precarity of this moment in history.

    The neighborhoods and communities I walk through often seem to be losing the debate between local needs (for food, shelter, community, commerce) and the global trend of economic stagnation, shifting climate changes, political estrangement. However, while sorting my Philadelphia catalogue of images into typologies, I perceived a consistent improvised aesthetic that revealed a narrative of shared perseverance in the face of uncertainty and hardship. In cataloging these repeating patterns in our daily world, I found the informal temporary structures and ingenious vernacular designs to be evidence of a community determined to survive in the face of system collapse.

    -Amze Emmons