Shannon Ebner at Altman Siegel, San Francisco

Press release:

Water in the camera is a sign of what can happen when wet words enter a hot field.
Subjects without cameras in a place without cameras.
Some people will say that this camera is a precision instrument but I say that this camera is an instrument for going stray.
A camera that is straying on an object other than a human face may be detected as a human face.


Virtual horizons in exposure zones,
Night scenes or points of light,
Subjects in low light,
Subjects at the edge of the picture,
Subjects strongly reflecting light,
Subjects moving dramatically up, down, left and right,
Subjects that change speed and move erratically,
Subjects approaching or moving away from the camera,
Subjects at the edge of the picture,
Subjects in an audible field,
Subjects going stray.


Touch the subject to focus.
Going stray like hairs on the neck.
Picture stray hairs crossing a
subjects eye and then erasing
stray subjects from the frame.
How stray light reaching the image plane
enters the camera during exposure
and even if the sun is slightly away
from the angle of view it may still
cause smoke or fire.
Dragging on the monitor while looking
through the viewfinder
stray subjects moving through the finder
move with many subjects lost & found.

Shannon Ebner

“How can a camera be so sure that it’s subjects are willing to be seen if not heard, to be in the weather if not destroyed by it, to be in the war if not moving away from it, to be wet words in a hot field.”

Altman Siegel is pleased to present WET WORDS IN A HOT FIELD, Shannon Ebner’s third solo exhibition with the gallery.

For this new body of work, Ebner translates the camera’s language, originally culled from 35mm DSLR instruction manuals, into a series of large-scale photographic text fields.

Devoid of the original context and taking on a poetic form, the repurposed phrases turn on the device posing questions about the medium of photography itself — how do we frame? Who and what can be captured and by what means? What tries to escape, can’t be seen, refuses or is present but invisible? Ripe with transitory visual elements such as condensation, motion blur, and the touch of a human hand, our attention is directed to the surface, production, and authorship of the image. In this field, subject positions, subjectivities, and the movement of the two in and out of the frame challenge notions of representation.

The audio tracks in the exhibition were originally performed by New York based trumpet player Nate Wooley (American, b. 1974). Recorded in a double height room in Manhattan last spring, the melody originates from FAREWELL EARTHLY JOY, a Shaker Spiritual that was first recorded in 1977.

Maziyar Pahlevan provided design assistance for the works in this exhibition. Thanks to Jane Hait, Matt Wellins and Nate Wooley.

Shannon Ebner (B. 1971, Englewood, NJ) has had solo exhibitions in institutions such as the ICA, Miami (2015); Fondazione Memmo, Rome (2014); Hammer Museum/LAXART, Los Angeles (2011); and MoMA PS1, New York (2007) among others. Her work was featured in the 10th Liverpool Biennial in the UK (2018); the 31st Biennial of Graphic Arts, Ljubljana in Slovenia (2015); the 54th Venice Biennale in Italy (2011), the 6th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art in Germany (2010), and the Whitney Biennial in New York (2008) among other major group exhibitions.

Publications by Ebner include A Public Character (ICA Miami and ROMA, 2016); A HUDSON YARD, in collaboration with David Reinfurt (Friends of the High Line, 2015); Auto Body Collision (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2015); STRIKE (Mousse, 2015); and The Sun as Error (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009). This year she produced “Stray: A Graphic Tone,” an LP featuring the poems of Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey (Fonograf/ROMA) 2019, which will be available at the gallery. In 2018, Ebner was named chairperson of the Photography Department at Pratt Institute’s School of Art. She currently lives and works in Brooklyn.

Artist: Shannon Ebner
Venue: Altman Siegel, San Francisco
Exhibition title: WET WORDS IN A HOT FIELD
Date: November 16 – December 21, 2019

Text/Press release and images provided by the event.
© Altman Siegel, San Francisco CALIFORNIA U.S.A.