Social Media

From the Flat Files: Thomas Jackson's Emergent Behavior

photo-eye Gallery From the Flat Files: Thomas Jackson's Emergent Behavior Delaney Hoffman
photo-eye Gallery takes a deep dive into Yarn no.2 from Thomas Jackson's series, Emergent Behavior.
Thomas Jackson, Yarn no.2, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, 2012, Archival pigment print, 20x25," Edition of 3, $2500

This week at photo-eye, we’re taking a deep dive into one of our favorite images by Thomas Jackson, Yarn no. 2, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, 2012.

The constructions of Thomas Jackson, despite their appearance, are slow. Though their subject matter is literally explosive, Thomas Jackson’s images from the Emergent Behavior series are painstaking. Armed with his 4x5 camera and occasional assistant, Jackson installs his constructions in their setting prior to photographing. Yarn no. 2 is no exception.

Thomas Jackson, Yarn no.2, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, 2012, Archival pigment print, 20x25," Edition of 3, $2500

The central burst of activity animates the image, with a cluster of lines that seem to expand ever outward, mimicking the experience of watching something grow, but only by doubling back on itself first. Ultimately, expansion feels inevitable; when I look at this image, I know that the neon web will bounce and bounce in perpetuity, even if I’m not sure what that means for me just yet. The randomized chaos of Jackson’s branch-bound installation almost makes me feel claustrophobic, but then I realize that I can see fishing line. Suddenly, there is a visual element that draws my eye away from the bustling center and into the gentle woods behind it.

Detail from Thomas Jackson's Yarn no.2

This composition, despite its straight lines and glaring palette, has been forced to slow down; it has forced my eyes to wander, to consider its points of origin. Suddenly, it is apparent to me that everything is meticulously tied and staked, and in noticing the detail present in the lush, green foreground, I also remember that this is a 4x5 photograph. My initial perception of this image was that it must have been digital, despite knowing how it was made. Maybe this is because this random explosion of string feels like it could have occurred spontaneously over one or multiple attempts. Maybe it is because I have been conditioned to think of contemporary work shot on film as striving for neutrality and balance, and the digitally printed, fluorescent web of yarn staring back at me is antithetical to that; however its objectively analog methods of construction place Yarn no. 2 in the uncanny space in between the real and the rendered. It is an image that makes us look twice.

Detail from Thomas Jackson's Yarn no.2

The Freudian definition of the “uncanny” — that which is familiar yet strange — is one that Thomas Jackson embraces and hopes to incite through the imposition of his sculptural works onto the landscape. This feels appropriate for Jackson, who began Emergent Behavior, the overarching series of which Yarn no. 2 is a part, by engaging with the idea of the “swarm.” A cloud of gnats in the summertime is not that much different from an ant colony, which is not much different from our very connected human world, if you think about it through the lens of the hive mind.

Hear more from Thomas Jackson about this idea by exploring his 2015 interview and talk on the work at the link below!

>> Thomas Jackson on Emergent Behavior <<

• • • • • 

photo-eye Gallery is proud to represent Thomas Jackson.

For more information, and to purchase prints by Thomas Jackson please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly or Gallery Assistant Delaney Hoffman, or you may also call us at 505-988-5152 x202