this moment: missives from another world

Organizations and artists need documentation of their work for their own records, and for their own sake. When the medium is performance and other time-based arts, documents may be the only thing that exists afterwards. Re-contextualizing documentation as a final form is a cottage industry of recomposition and reflection, generating debate. Yet if the document didn’t exist there would be a lot less to talk about, and though our memories may be rich, the field would be barren.
When Mobius Artists Group member Bob Raymond began documenting Mobius events, his primary intention was to provide a record of the organization’s work that could be drawn from to use as support materials needed for grant applications. Some of the uses and actions grew, in providing images for the artists, with other activities such as publicity stills for upcoming works. Counted alone, by photographing performances and installations in 35mm slide film (and to some extant 35mm BW negative) from the early eighties until the early 2000’s switch to a digital camera, Mobius, through Bob’s work, amassed a collection of slides estimated conservatively at over 10,000 in number. These slides and other materials have also been numbered, archived and stored by Bob, as well as over 15,000 digital images since the changeover to digital media.
This exhibition came about when Bob Raymond brought some new archival prints he’d been making to a meeting. Their quality, care, and presence carry the ghost of the event as surely as the event performed itself. And there was and is still a particular Raymond protocol, all the more impressive considering the results it yielded. His protocol gave complete respect to the performer’s focus, avoiding the possibility of breaking it, for first of all, he never used a flash inside Mobius’ black-box space and its twenty years of performances there. Secondly, he avoided all shutter clicks, especially during quiet moments, lest that too adversely affect the performer as well as the audience. Without a flash, he relied on long exposures in primarily low light conditions. There are, often, trails of movement as a result. But also as often, there is the stillness needed to register the image in focus, and something delicately in between as well. Raymond’s knack for capturing moments, some in high tension and in process is clear here.
Bob Raymond also took his documenting a creative step further than most. To me, one of the distinguishing features of the work is how he works in detail as well. An image that probably would not convey the scope or general appearance may on the other hand reveal an important feature, or be framed in such a vital way that it gives its subject broader amplification inside its forms, yielding a new one. That insight is among the artist’s gifts he has brought to this collection and to the Mobius archive.
Mobius’ archive, which contains Bob’s work and also documentation from others in the Mobius community, is on the move, too. One local university, building a new digital archives laboratory, has proposed using the Mobius archive as its project for graduate student interns. Another university is now considering housing the entire Mobius archives, including paper, film, video and sound documents, with Bob Raymond’s images the centerpiece of it.
I wouldn’t know, but I would like to guess, that in our time there is no other photographer with the record of commitment and continuity Bob Raymond has through his 28 years of documenting Mobius. I think it’s high time the body of work of this artist and photographer be seen, noticed, and acknowledged. And I hope this exhibition advances that ievitability sooner

Jed Speare, 6/09
Studio Soto, Boston, MA

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