This post is actually an interview with Nashville photographer/musician/bon vivant and raconteur, Tony Doling. We discuss Halfway Across A Bridge: Super8 Stills, his latest exhibit at Twist Art Gallery in downtown Nashville's historic Arcade building.
JN: Why don't you tell me a little bit about your new exhibit. How did the concept evolve?
TD: I've been thinking about this show for a couple of years now. I lived in Marin County from 1999-2000. LA for 2 months in 2000. I lived across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco for almost a year, and crossed that bridge probably 50-60 times. For an individual who would like to consider himself an artist/photographer, I never took a single photo of that bridge. I mean, why bother? It's all been done. What I did do is shoot about 10 seconds of black and white Super 8 film footage by sticking my camera out of the window of a moving car while crossing that bridge. For some time now, I've wanted to display the random, incomplete images that came out of these 10 seconds. After a stunning amount of time scanning tiny little frames, that's the show that I came up with.
JN: Obviously, in Marin County the bridge takes on a number of practical, symbolic and historical meanings. How did the bridge figure into your world view during that time?
TD: As a guy who grew up in Louisiana, I was clearly affected by all the many definitive images I'd seen across the rest of the country (The Golden Gate Bridge, The Chicago and NYC skylines, The Seattle Space Needle and on and on). My only relationship was to see something become more beautiful and majestic in person than any of the media images could have attempted to portray.
JN: Still, the images of the bridge color the perception of the real thing. The real thing can sometimes become almost unreal once we have been saturated with mediated messages about what something is. In this case, images of the bridge are a cliché. What made you decide to shoot your footage at that moment? What made you roll down that window?
TD: We were shooting a lot of Super 8 at the time (my brother, Shane and I, when we had common days off) and I had a camera loaded with film and didn't want to turn around to get a legit shot, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to capture the fact that we had actually seen the thing in person. Not a lot of foresight involved.
JN: Its one thing to create some work, its another thing to put it on display. You've started showing more work formally in the last year, but what made you decide to pursue getting this show together?
TD: Again, to be totally honest, an opening came up for the main gallery at Twist, and, given the age of the footage and concept, I realized I would probably never do it if I didn't force myself to do it now.
JN: You've displayed your photos before, but this is more of a conceptual installation. Does this show represent something new in your opinion? A step up? A step out?
TD: I don't know the specific term I would give it, but it is an artistic risk for me. I like to consider myself a simple, no frills guy who doesn't take himself too seriously. I never had a "Master Plan" for this when I shot this. I was just glad to have a day off. The biggest fear for me doing something different than I've done before is that the reaction may be "Who does this guy think he is?" There's definitely a worry that people will think I'm intentionally trying to do something conceptual out of context with my character, and that the result may be insincere. I hope it's not.
JN: At first, I began to suspect that your ambivalence regarding this show was disingenuous, especially given your confidence regarding your musical projects. (Doling is a composer/musician with the Nashville-based pop-collective, Bulb). However, I was fascinated to find out that you look at this show as something separate from your other projects. And you're genuinely worried about it! (Laughs). Tell me a bit about how this is "something different" from your musical efforts.
TD: Well, first of all, I've been playing music for so long, I don't really even have to think about it. In the work I do with Todd ((Greene), a great artist here in Nashville, as well) in bulb, it's so collaborative. I write most of the music and he writes the lyrics and melodies. It's a kind of assembly line in regards to the specialization and by far the most collaborative thing I've ever done. It's a unique way of doing music, but seems to work as we are just wrapping up our 15th album. www.bulbmusic.com (thanks for the plug, Joe). With the Twist show, although I've used many great suggestions from friends, it's still just my name on it - so I feel alot more pressure. There's always a worry in my new ventures into visual arts about the fact that by displaying your work, you have to be willing to let people like it or not, and maybe even tell you that they don't like it. I need to get used to that and be okay with it.
JN: We all certainly have to find a way to continually take ground despite criticism, rejection or - even worse - disinterest. I think my solution is always to stay so busy that I don't have time to consider how others might perceive a given effort. It helps to be immersed in an expansive project. Have you been looking for a bigger project to do or did the material inspire the show?
TD: The accidental nature of the footage and the question of what to do with it definitely inspired the show. The "something bigger" idea scares the shit out of me.
JN: Will you be pursuing similar ideas/projects in the future?
TD: I have no idea where to go now. Any ideas?
JN: What will make this show “successful” in your eyes?
TD: I hope that some of the girls at the after-party might talk to me since I had stuff at the Gallery Crawl.
Doling's project will open this Saturday night, October 3 with an artist reception from 6 – 9 p.m. at Twist Gallery's space at 73 Arcade.