When a man is riding through this desert by night and for some reason -falling asleep or anything else -he gets separated from his companions and wants to rejoin them, he hears spirit voices talking to him as if they were his companions, sometimes even calling him by name. Often these voices lure him away from the path and he never finds it again
-Marco Polo, Travels
William Boling’s Marco Polo is a long duration project, where the US photographer invites participants to post snapshots, memories and moments in image or text form which are responded to daily: embracing, compiling or ignoring their input into his own.
Boling often opens dialogues with his work. In Southern Places of Arts and Letters he documented the estates and landmarks of his heroes, conversing with the ghosts of famous literary icons, while for You Ain’t Wrong he juxtaposed bizarre and banal items from New Zealand’s well-known TradeMe auction site with it’s sister eBay, mining the sites for found photography before interacting with users by auctioning off the paired images. In Marco Polo he initiates a simultaneously direct and ambiguous conversation with participants in which their contributions form part of the ongoing project stream, and are responded to – in some way – by Boling.
The photograph, like the 140 characters of a tweet, captures a moment in time, grasping an instant and writing it indelibly, (almost) immune to the perpetual future rushing towards us. When we define the Photograph as a motionless image”, said Barthes, “this does not mean only that the figures it represents do not move; it means that they do not emerge, do not leave: they are anesthetized and fastened down, like butterflies.” The click of a shutter or a mouse kills, softly and quietly, transforming shimmering light rays or swaying emotions into an inanimate form – something we can copy, send, and multiply, an object which is inextricably linked to what it portrays, and at the same time, outdated the second after it’s captured.
“Nobody can write fast enough to tell a true story”, stated novelist Michael Ventura, but here Boling weaves a new, ongoing narrative – collecting the jettisoned scraps of conversations and pixelated photos of others into his own arc. In doing so, he sets up a flawed artificial intelligence, a fallible logic where all input from participants is accepted, but then embraced, transformed, rejected or simply forgotten about, assembling all these processes into his response: a single image or sentence which is much more and not enough – that is, going far beyond the simplistic 1:1 input:response of traditional interaction, but never able to gather and reflect all the information given. Each submission though, has the ability to alter the flow of this long-duration work, diverting and siphoning enough to lead the course in a different direction, as well as being re-read by future viewers and participants. The viewer skimming down the page fashions their own tale, connecting call and response images and text fragments, uncovering commonalities and discarding others to construct a momentary meta-narrative.
In doing so we re-animate these objects, renewed every time we gaze on them, coming alive as we splice them into new stories, for as Susan Sontag asserts, even “the photograph of the missing being, will touch me like the delayed rays of a star”.
To play, participants can tweet or e-mail:
Simply address a tweet to the artist, by beginning it with @williamboling.
For images, please use the twitpic service. Images posted to other services will not appear.
Simply send an email here, with @williamboling in the subject line.
Any attached image is automatically posted to twitpic.