Tom Pnini’s solo exhibition “The Light Fantastic Toe” features two video works alongside treated photographs of recent years. At the center of the exhibition stands his new video project The Light Fantastic Toe (2015), presenting the events leading up to a stereoscopic portrait of a family during the American Civil War, taken just before the patriarch leaves to join the Union Army. Alongside this project, Pnini presents a series of watercolor treated stereoscopic photographs of natural landscapes, and the animation video work Dust Bowl, based on an iconic photograph of one of the worst man-made ecological disasters in American history.
Pnini’s series of stereoscopic images consists of printed photographs depicting mountain ranges in America, taken from the Library of Congress. A stereoscopic photograph is comprised of two nearly identical images taken with a camera with two lenses placed apart from each other at the same distance as human eyes. The two images unite under a stereoscope viewer, and a magical illusion of depth is created. Pnini “takes over” these sceneries and provides them with his own settings of starry nights, using watercolors. Every treated photograph appears in the exhibition twice – once in its original size fit for a stereoscope viewer to create the illusion of depth, and secondly in large format, extracting the two images from the stereoscope, and striping them from their original function.
The video The Light Fantastic Toe begins with what appears to be a split screen; however it is actually a doubled set creating the illusion of a stereoscopic image. Pnini duplicates the actual scene in real life: two pairs of identical twins play the same roles in two identical sets, which themselves are replicas of a 1860’s New York apartment. Similarly to his manipulated landscape photographs, each filmed set has been colored separately, emulating the hand coloring technics of the 19th century. The portrait is no longer of one family, but is in fact of two families – identical and different. At the final moment of photography a gunshot is heard instead of the sound of the flash, suggesting a possible future; each family poses in front of a similar path and destiny, the prospect of war. The camera click captures an image for eternity, and so it records the possibility of death.
In his animation video Dust Bowl, Pnini tampers with an iconic photograph documenting a terrible dust storm – one of the Dust Bowl storms of the 1930’s in America, which led to a massive migration and intensified the economic impact of the Great Depression in the region. In the foreground stands a small house and couple – a man and woman almost unnoticeable as the sand slowly covers the frame. Suddenly a gunshot flashes through the image. At this moment a sound of a camera flash is completely covering the sound of the gunshot; this violent act is left almost unseen as we focus our gaze to the storm. At the exhibition, Pnini interweaves collective narratives with fabricated personal stories, precisely at the critical moment of photography when the latters are dissolved into history.