Carlos Diaz Statement

Artist Statement
The Invented Landscape Series I & II

As a result of prior professional experience in mechanical drawing and design, an affinity, with the period commonly referred to as the American Industrial Revolution, has evolved. In time, my attention has turned to the direct connection between it and the American amusement industry, which was born, of that “revolution”. It is, the invention of illusion and by extension, the impact the carnival, circus and amusement parks had on American culture at the turn of the century, that is at the foundation of my work. In my photographic collage work, Invented landscape, I use vintage steel plate and wood block engravings from patent journals published from 1840-1890, during the peak of the American Industrial Revolution. These highly detailed illustrations are of newly invented contraptions which were used primarily in manufacturing, mining, farming and transportation. These mechanical devices are significant because they in fact changed the “civilized” world by impacting how people lived and worked. Ultimately, their use meant greater efficiency and productivity and thus provided a new opportunity for leisure and play, for a new “working class”. This connection that evolved, between the machine and the world of illusion is central to the Invented Landscape work. Consequently, these vintage engravings are collaged onto black and white (silver prints) photographs I make of Coney Island in New York City during the “off season”, when the amusement park rides are partially dismantled.

Coney Island, made up of Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland, was significant because it became the quintessential playground to the world. As the single most popular destination for entertainment at the turn of the century, the Coney Island amusement parks most dramatically symbolized a cultural upheaval in a changing America. Amusement parks became surreal landscapes and thus provided an escape from a society confined by the Victorian morals of an elite minority. Led by political and cultural leaders from the Protestant middle class, they declared the virtues of education, refinement, responsibility and restraint. Coney Island, on the other hand, was a place that contrasted work and play, pain and pleasure, control and chaos and fact and fantasy. It was the manifestation of a surrealist dream (and nightmare), a place for the expression of individual hysteria, passion and desire!

In the Invented Landscape images, the Coney Island environment provides a space to merge both metaphorically and literally, the machines of the industrial revolution and the amusement park landscape. They are a fusion of the functional forms of labor and the fun and fantasy of the carnival. More importantly, they are both a reflection of the disparity that exists between the finite and the infinite and the thread that connects the surreal to the real. In the most recent work, human figures inhabit the landscape. They are anonymous and yet represent us all. They have no identity but seem familiar. The figure is intended as a metaphor for all humankind and symbolizes the fragility of our relationship to the earth and the nature of our existence both physically and spiritually. Both from a purely photographic perspective and on a more conceptual level, the Invented Landscape work rests on the tension between the literal photograph (what is captured by the camera) and the constructed collage (what is invented as illusion), and between what we perceive to be real and the surreal. The fabricated/invented landscapes provide a world where hopes and fears are called into question, where the relationship between technology and mankind can be seen both as compatable and in contrast. At the very least the Invented Landscape images are double edged swords.

Process Statement
Invented Landscape Series I & II:

Each image is a unique hand constructed collage that utilizes vintage steel plate and wood block engravings from approximately 1840-1890 which are glued (using PVA) onto a selenium toned gelatin silver print of the Coney Island landscape. Each one-of-a-kind collage is framed.


6 x 9" image, framed to 16 x 20"

9 x 12" image, framed to 20 x 24"

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