Time functions both as a necessary prerequisite for and a corrosive force on the process of memory, the oxygen to memory’s respiration. Elijah Nelms’ practice traces the sharp edges of this paradox, exploring the tipping point at which memories begin to distort the people and events they set out to preserve.
Working in a variety of media, Nelms constructs iterative systems of unmeaning. His pieces emerge from discrete packets of representative information that, through his layered interventions, gradually lose their ability to recognizably communicate with their audience. Divorced from their contextual antecedents, the pieces become untraceable artifacts – eroded pillars twisting upward from the dry riverbed of memory. They emerge from their own unmaking.
The pieces in his “Disturbances” series each begin with digital stills taken from the video feeds of internet cam-girls. Communicating with their clients exclusively over low-fidelity web video streams, the women often wear elaborate makeup designed to partially obscure their identities from their viewers. Nelms’ glitch processing accentuates the isolating distances intrinsic to this simulacrum of human contact, interposing washes of digital noise through the images’ communicative signal. As the images undergo progressive layers of distortion, human forms give way to stark geometric features, leaving abstracted, right-angled fields that echo the digital memory-loss process of JPEG compression.
This distortive process carries over to his photographic practice, which primarily involves slow shutter speeds and long exposure times. Nelms uses the camera to thwart his photographs’ indexical qualities, forcing each image to record more information than can be translated into a recognizable image or coherent memory.
Throughout Nelms’ work, information introduced into a system of memory pollutes the memory itself: what remains becomes an accretionary structure of loss.
By Paul Blakeslee