Mechanism - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

The longing of patterns, the outcry of voice against interference, steadfast endurance through inexorable collapse: Mechanism echos our built and acoustical environment as we communicate through the overwhelming surroundings of our own creation.

The Mechanism images are products of the tools of our age: disposable dollar-store plastics and commodity electronics that are cheaper to replace than repair. What we see is the movement of these trivial objects recorded with light across time; the diversity of shape, colour, and line are the artifacts of an imperfect process that itself reflects the transience of both our efforts and their results.


As an experimental and process-driven series, it makes sense that the Mechanism images are made with a scanner – which is, really, just a specialized kind of camera. It captures very high resolution images, but only one line and one colour of pixels at a time. Scanning clear plastic lets me choose different surfaces and shapes to image, and the way they're moved during the scan changes the line and form. Every result is unique.


The audio track doesn't reward ambivalence. Played at a low to moderate volume it will simply be an annoying drone, but at a higher volume there's subtly and nuance that can be appreciated. The base track is a combination of recordings of the motor in the flatbed scanner that captured the Mechanism images, and they have been layered, shifted, and stretched to create interference and sounds that didn't previously exist. Also layered into the base is the underlying rattle from an industrial heater in a parking garage, which was what started me down the path that has brought me to here.

The sounds that are woven into the soundtrack include eastbound and westbound traffic recorded from between their respective express and collector lanes of Highway 401, subway trains, both curving between Spadina and St George stations and passing overhead on the Prince Edward (Bloor Street) Viaduct, the lunch crowd at a local food court, concrete pumpers building the foundations for the future One Bloor condo tower, the rattles of a 72A Pape TTC bus on an empty run downtown, and the late-night footsteps of people walking past in the long hallway of Spadina subway station. As with the images in the series, the sounds are an expression of the city that I live in.

The images used in the video are also in Mechanism – The Book, which can be ordered from Blurb either as an 8x10 softcover or as an electronic download.


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