Liz Deschenes's photographic oeuvre deals with the conditions of photography and its components, with perception and the correlation to other artistic media, and with the architecture within which her works are shown. Her works allow a self-referential look at the medium, liberated of its functions, taking its own conditions as its theme.
For some years now, Deschenes has been working almost exclusively with photograms - pictures created without a camera, using a technique as old as photography itself. Traditionally, it has served to capture silhouettes: objects are placed on photosensitive paper and the paper is then exposed. Deschenes does without these external references: her works are made by exposing photographic paper for several hours, out of doors, mostly at night, before fixing it and treating it with toners. Depending on the choice of photographic chemicals and how they are used, this creates surfaces that are black, white, silver or golden, glossy or matt. The results are also influenced by external factors including temperature and humidity. The chemicals leave streaks and spots, and there are hand- and fingerprints from the artist's handling of the material. "My work is in reaction to, I think, the limited scope that photography is often understood by. I think photography is capable of much more than representing a particular moment in time. [...] I'm just working with the most basic elements of photography, which is paper, light and chemicals. There's no negative, there's no digital file. I'm bringing it back to a pre-photographic status."
The photograms made in this way show nothing but themselves and the traces of the process that produced them. Crucially, once the photochemical process is set in motion, it never comes to a standstill: "I constantly have to respond to the changing conditions of the work, which is part of the reason why I'm trying to make work that also changes during the exhibition - and beyond. Because there is no decisive moment."
Deschenes's photograms change, they oxidize, their colours shift, they are in a constant state of flux. This relates her current work to earlier explorations of colour and monochromy. "The monochrome and other selfreflexive practices do not have a deep history in the photographic medium, mainly because of the medium's inherent ability to record and document. 'Painting's rejection of depiction has condemned photography to depict.'"