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Mariah Robertson Wears a Yellow Suit to Work | "New York Close Up" | Art21

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    [New York Close Up]
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    [Mariah Robertson--Artist]
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    This is a dark room.
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    This is metallic paper, yeah.
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    It’s a little bit thicker than regular photo paper and uh, it’s supposed to last a little bit longer.
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    This is a very complicated piece here with...
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    These are bottles of chemistry.
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    This is my favorite brand which was just discontinued.
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    This is high breathe....yeah, very nice....and this little pump goes out the window and it pumps in fresh air.
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    But it’s...there’s like an open trench back here or an open ditch and it’s Greenpoint so the ground is toxic so it’s not like the best air, but...
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    It’s better than being in here with a filter.
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    It’s nice, right?
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    ["Mariah Robertson Wears A Yellow Suit To Work"]
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    I’ve been working on this series of hand processed color work for the last two years.
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    It has been really exciting.
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    In this one, the green is making these reds and these reds are making the blues, essentially.
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    So it’s just amount...the amount of exposure and the colors that are… let me open it up all the way to see what I mean.
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    It was like this...
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    At times it feels like really fully blossoming, you know working on this. But it’s also super toxic and uh, it’s with materials that are pretty obsolete.
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    Which at any minute could be discontinued so...so this thing that I’ve been doing for the last two years which has been really amazing to do, it’s got to come to an end soon.
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    That is a massive like leak coming from the window.
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    Like normal color photographer dark room would be really bad...because it would screw up, make weird shifting and stuff but it doesn’t....it’s....
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    I have found that it’s...it’s okay.
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    Usually the work for me is like a problem solving set.
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    And so the photography projects I do, they’re really all processes from within photography.
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    If you’re familiar with photographer culture it’s very like, things are mounted this way.
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    They’re matted this way, use chemistry this way at this temperature and you like frame, you...
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    You know like so many rules.
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    So it’s really perfect for a little poking.
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    I like to take a system and then sort of bend the rules and change them and shake the system see like what the breaking points are and what the functional points are.
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    Wow, this one's weird.
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    I wasn’t moving it around, but this area got...was in the chemicals. The chemicals are dying so....
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    Maybe I should refresh them.
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    Just trying to balance being planned and being ready and then being aware of like the thing that happens.
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    I don’t know how to say this. I think for this journey you go on where like you make one move, then the materials make another move, then you make a move but you’re always sort of following the path that’s given to you by the thing that you’re working with.
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    The stumbled upon fruit is always much better than if you had executed things perfectly.
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    When I wash them to hang them up, okay, I think it’s dead.
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    And I’m still, oh, desperately trying to hoard the last of my materials.
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    If I had been born fifteen years earlier it wouldn’t have been an issue because film would have been just standard.
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    It’s not tragic. It’s kind of, I don’t know what, sometimes I feel like I’m out of control, like I won’t have this forever.
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    But you don’t have anything forever, so, just like make the most of it now while you have it.
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    What are you going to cut with this?
Mariah Robertson Wears a Yellow Suit to Work | "New York Close Up" | Art21

How does an artist make work in extreme circumstances? In this film, artist Mariah Robertson wears a makeshift hazmat suit, face mask, and breathing apparatus to create a series of hand-processed color photographs in her darkroom in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Navigating both a toxic process and discontinued materials, Robertson's ability to perfect her technique is a race against time, dwindling resources, and her ability to endure difficult conditions. The artist's unorthodox, photo-based projects often employ multiple techniques in a single image: enlarging negatives, employing filters, crafting hand-made patterns of colored gels, and placing objects—such as agate slices, hoses, and glass—directly on the paper. In addition, Robertson achieves one-of-a-kind results by developing each photo in an artisinal fashion by spraying chemicals and by controlling reactions with variable temperatures and the strength of her materials. In the end, Roberton's tragicomic images poke fun at a traditional photography culture while exploring the slow obsolescence of analog processes in a digital era.

Mariah Robertson (b. 1975, Indianapolis, IN, USA) grew up in Sacramento, California, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

CREDITS | "New York Close Up" Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Clair Popkin. Additional Camera: Wesley Miller. Sound: Nicholas Lindner. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Production Assistant: Paulina V. Ahlstrom, Don Edler & Maren Miller. Design: Open. Artwork: Mariah Robertson. Thanks: Matthew Dipple & Museum 52. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.

"New York Close Up" is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support provided by The 1896 Studios & Stages.

For more info: http://www.art21.org/newyorkcloseup

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