Fotograf Magazine

Shannon Ebner

Stranger Than Paradise

The premise of the work of American artist Shannon Ebner is not based on Ed Ruscha, as was often noted, but rather on an interpretation of it by Yves-Alain Bois, presented in the early 1990s.[ref]Yves-Alain Bois, “Thermometers Should Last Forever”, in: Edward Ruscha: Romance with Liquids, Paintings 1966–1969, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc, 1993. Reprinted in: October 111, winter 2005, pp. 60–80.[/ref] The French theorist, in turn, was drawing on an interview in which Ed Ruscha attributed to words a certain thermodynamic quality. According to him, overused “hot” words may heat up to the point of melting and ultimately vaporize entirely, losing their original meaning. Language is thus subject to the same law of entropy as everything that is exposed to the irrefutable logic of time. This is evident not only in Ruscha’s cycle of Fluid Word paintings (1966–1969), but also in his later book of photographs Real Estate Opportunities (1970), where he captures property for sale. Similar to “overheated” words, buildings with a FOR SALE sign have been put out of circulation and represented mere visual equivalent of background noise. In this respect, according to Yves-Alain Bois, Ed Ruscha’s work is a precursor of the entropic ventures A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey (1967) and Mirror Displacement (1969) by another Californian artist – Robert Smithson.

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