Sophie’s Cero’s methodology has the effect of confronting viewers with an intriguing dilemma: how to respond to artworks in which our perceptions seem at odds with our understanding? How, for example, can relatively straightforward photographic representations of a familiar domestic activity—cooking a pie—seem so eerily unidentifiable, even otherworldly?
One particular pleasure of her work is its attention to a kind of procedural honesty, an ethics of representation that almost seems designed to allow the machinery of digitized vision to articulate its own fallibility (with all that implies).
In the first instance, Cero appeals to the machine-logic of digital photographic arithmetic—the camera/computer’s seemingly tireless facility to record, duplicate and manipulate imagery whilst remaining true to certain protocols of colour and proportion. But then, in ways that amplify the venerable technique of ‘multiple exposure’, she applies her own meticulous rules commanding the software to layer each image in a precisely ordered sequence.
The theorist Roland Barthes describes photography as possessing a ‘plentitude’ of representational power because of its ability to record a wealth of detailed information. Cero’s digital scrutiny of the domestic space (or is it the opposite?) pushes that notion of photographic plenitude towards logical conclusions that produce a visible gestalt—with results that lie beyond the sum of compositional parts, and yet also negate them.
But her negation of intelligibility does not emerge from any straightforward erasures, nor from a facile application of ‘special effects’. Refraining from such creative abandon, Cero instead seems to ask the machine itself a series of almost ontological questions. And, certainly the answers returned from the hi-tech network of diodes and lasers are entrancing. But then, I am only human—what disturbs me is the uncanny sensation that the computer says ‘No’.
Dr Kimathi Donkor is an artist and university lecturer who lives and works in London. His solo exhibitions include ‘Some Clarity of Vision’ at Gallery MOMO in Johannesburg, S.A. (2015); group exhibitions include the 29th São Paulo Biennial (Brazil, 2010).