Footage from The Remote Viewer installation by artist Michael C Coldwell. The work was exhibited as part of Light Night 2018 in Leeds, at the Treasures gallery, University of Leeds.
A site-specific installation at the archives of Leeds University, The Remote Viewer presents two different views of a Leeds which no longer exists.
Using archive images from Special Collections, the work explores the photograph as a representation of loss – the impossibility of time-travel, despite our saturation in pictures and traces of the past. By placing these artefacts back in the scenes in which they came from, the modern city is re-haunted by a change we can no longer fathom, by the scale of urban transformation which has taken place.
Two views of the same city are contrasted. Godfrey Bingley’s vision of a bucolic Headingley, just before its rapid urbanisation, and Leeds Corporation’s record of a condemned slum on Quarry Hill. All of the original images used were taken between 1888 and 1910, but the lost cities they represent seem very different – which is not to say they can be easily categorised – urban or rural, rich or poor, heaven or hell.
Rephotography usually tries to take exactly the same photo again, so we can compare then with now. But all these locations have transformed beyond recognition, so here the images of past and present cannot be reconciled. In attempting to take the rephotographs anyway, the form deconstructs itself. Further deconstruction is provided by the accompanying sound, recorded at various stages of the image-making: scanning the glass plates, walking the two areas looking for the disappeared streets, and the sound of the camera itself, recording the new views of Leeds. Quarry Hill is being developed again. We can hear the sound of construction in the background, haunting the old images from the future.
You can see more photographs of The Remote Viewer here: michaelccoldwell.blogspot.com/2018/10/the-remote-viewer-at-light-night-2018.html