Photography has endless possibilities, and Maya Rochat is determined to subvert them all. Even as a student at Switzerland’s École Cantonale d’art de Lausanne (Écal), the frame seemed a too restrictive space for her, and she quickly began exploring ways to push the boundaries of the medium.
Her investigations shaped the one-of-a-kind pieces that were included in the group show Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at the Tate Modern earlier this fall, as well as those in her book A Rock Is a River (SPBH Editions, October 2017).
Her process is never repetitive. She combines photographs that she takes of family, friends, or her environment with paintings, prints, or collages and uses materials including chemicals, bleach, spray paint, or glue. She thinks of her practice as “a box full of toys [and] each time new rules and objectives arise.”
A Rock Is a River is comprised of images of landscapes, geological formations, and plant life that she shot in her native Switzerland and Peru, together with images her father took 30 years ago, adding an emotional component to the work. She printed on painted paper in order to see how the ink would react to the surface, resulting in a slowly unfolding narrative made up of chromatic alterations and visual ruptures.
Experimentation with printing processes to manipulate and deconstruct images is a prominent aspect of Rochat’s eclectic practice, which also includes printing on painted surfaces as well as plastic and fabric. “I need to accept that some pictures will be changed and damaged by the process,” she says, “but I guess that’s also what I find exciting.” Her trust in chance recalls the magic of early photographic practices.
For the work A Rock Is a River (META CARROTS), 2017, she incorporated, among other elements, a scan of old carrots; a photograph that she took of a framed work from a 2017 show, Arresting Fragments of the World, at the Kunsthaus Langenthal; and a collage she created for the Palais de Toyko in Paris. In drawing on previous works of art and earlier exhibitions, the work becomes a representation of overall process, incorporating notions of time and space.
As part of the same installation at the Tate, she combined a painting she had printed on transparent stickers, a photograph/collage printed on a moving mesh banner, framed works (collages, photographs, and paintings) hung on the walls, and a 30-minute video-collage projected continuously on the installation. The result was mesmerizing and intentionally indecipherable – viewers could never see the whole thing at once. Rochat’s layered, multifaceted works are experiential and, as she puts it, “complicated and full of tricks, like life is.”