Artweek: 5/28/83  vol. 14 #21, page 11

Loaded Implications:  Lisa Bloomfield at ARCO - John Brumfield

In the jargon of the Central Intelligency Agency, "disinformation" refers to that kind of narrative which appears to derive from a pertinent body of hard data but is, in fact, a fabrication.

It's an embarrassingly simple process.  One "disinforms" merely by taking bits of recognizably real information and reorganizing them into fake, but logically believeable, relationships.  So you and I, the British ambassador and the Honduran consul all have ready access to the broad outlines of a number of specialized topics:  the instructional duties of advisors, say, in Nicaragua, or the historical function of herbicides; and because we are hardly specialists, because our frames of reference are fragmentary and our knowledge incomplete and, most of all, because we want to believe in logical structures, we are also the easy marks of those whose purpose is to turn a little information into misinformation.  And who, along the way, leads us into who-knows-what kind of bypaths.

Although hardly as malignant as her offical counterparts, Lisa Bloomfield makes her photography in reference to this process.  A current exhibition of three more or less extended narratives at ARCO Center for Visual Art, Bloomfield's show is a remarkably condensed expression of her fascination with the insidiously persuasive authority of texts and contexts, believable fictions, meaningful nonsense and -- need it be said? -- the shell game of photographic documentation:  What are you seeing when you see that image?

What the viewer sees at the ARCO Center are black and white photographs in linear arrangements, accompanied by printed captions or carefully lettered texts.  The Circular Story, appears to be what her collaborator on this piece, Rod Moore, describes as an "old-fashioned" story.  Moore, the writer, has created a tale whose elaboration is in the best tradition of the late-nineteenth century.  The economy of his language,  moreover, is wonderful.  Two brothers of unequal skill are out in the center of a lagoon, "each silent in his own share of the sailing."  So it begins: ten passages, each a crucial incident, followed by photographs.  Images of a narrator, of drama, of suspense and denouement; illustrative imagery -- transitional, and perhaps, even pathetic.

But that's not quite true.  Because the story is a fiction for which, of course, no documentation can exist; and the photographs are themselves enlarged fragments of unrelated images, copied from magazines thirty (or more) years old.  Because, in addition to the pleasures of a tale well told, Bloomfield and Moore are interested in the ambiguities of image-word relationships:  What can you create by implication alone?  And how do you lead a reader to fill in the meaning of an indecipherable gesture or an openended image?

In her most convincing, (but least compelling) piece, Bloomfield has fabricated a series of spoofingly fantastic archeological illustrations from non-existent sites around Los Angeles.  Accompanied by authoritative graphics and explanatory captions, these are at once patently preposterous and believable.  In this respect, each of Bloomfield's pieces represents a kind of experimental paradox in which she tinkers, sometimes satirically, with the conventions of socialized perception and the stuctures of belief.  Yet her work is neither excessively intellectual, nor is it just another arid exercise in conceptualist academics. 

Her Visionary Journey -  a work firmly aligned with the antiheroic and absurdist traditions - is both visually rich and engaging.  it too, derives from our culture's propensity to "take ambiguous statements and 'authenticate' them with images that turn out to be just as ambiguous"; but that shouldn't detract from the fact that the piece is also pretty funny looking.  And that in their reach, its implications are loaded.