Bucky Miller: Surging Spaces

by Francesca Balboni

The frame is the point. Always a point of view…but nevertheless still in need of some framing.

Miller does not disabuse me of the nagging tendency to experience the photograph’s frame as window. In fact, he counts on it, this belief in knowable space. But as I “look around” these worlds—devoid of people but never their presence—the more impossible the image’s resolution, the more palpable some tension. Less prick than poke, something within the image—a confluence of textures, of improbable volumes, of utter banalities—makes me wobbly. Even when Miller’s subjects are easily identifiable (i.e. TREE or FROG as opposed to always already DOG), the spaces they articulate within his frame ultimately disarm. More often than not, I find myself laughing; at what, exactly, I couldn’t say. 

The elusiveness of this illegibility and the pleasurable discomfort it brings are some of the work’s great delights. But these are also the makings of its politics. Every invigorating blip, every queasy tingle, a refusal to ever claim to know, definitely, a place, a space, or a moment in time. Every fizzy, fuzzy sensation, a rejection of an authoritative, dare I say objective, “view.” That’s not to say that this work elevates the subjective in its place. Rather, reveling in the sociality of affect, Miller’s work insists on the photographic encounter’s inclusion within the ordinary presences and contingencies of lived experience, and, equally important, the former’s capacity to highlight the latter.

In this, the installation of the work is essential. Playing with placement, lighting, and a variety of mounts, Miller offers the viewer an experience of surging encounters not unlike those that formed and informed his images. There, in the rarefied space of the gallery, the work emits and allows the viewer to enact something deeply ordinary: a chaotic, pulsing tangle of potential within and between zones of images, expanding out into a larger web of image and non-image alike. This experience, in no way clarifying the nature of the intensities bridging depicted and physical space, ultimately makes me profoundly aware of my own presence within that web. Emphasizing the somethings that arise between me and other things, Miller insists on photography as partial, grounded in a matrix of proximities. But within that frame, a more expansive experience of the world becomes possible.