Chris Buck documents spaces that would otherwise be innocuous, except that somewhere in the frame, unseen to the viewer is a figure of particular interest to us, a chance to become a voyeur into the private space of a celebrity. By assigning an empty room, vacant car or abandoned storefront to pop culture figures like Robert DeNiro, Jay Leno and Cindy Sherman, the quotidian becomes an intimate access into high-profile private lives. Presence identifies an invisible fingerprint as certain and intangible as a lingering smell of perfume when someone leaves a room. Presence identifies a change in a space when it is inhabited by a personality understood in a fragmented way by a large audience. How does space change in the “presence” of a celebrity?
Why did you decide to pursue your artistic practice on the East Coast?
Well I’m originally from Toronto in Canada. Coming from Toronto I thought I was going to move to London. I was influenced a lot by British culture and music and European culture to some extent, so it seemed like a logical choice to go to where to the place that excited me. One thing Britain is not very welcoming, it’s just a little less overtly friendly and also upon visiting New York I realized that coming with more of a Canadian slash British sensibility I was more unique here and consequently it’s a lot more friendly here, too. I felt very much at home right away. Having grown up hearing about New York and its reputation I never imagined it would be the right place for me, but once I came and spent time here it seemed like a very natural fit. And certainly compared to the West Coast, I’m very much an energetic driven person, as much as I love visiting the West Coast I’m not very into being laid back, and living in the moment isn’t really what I do. I kind of live for my drive and my ambitions. I actually keep in apartment because I work there so often. Even in LA I like to be on the East side. I’m definitely an East side person. Even in LA you find the more edgy, anxious people live on the East side and the more laid back in the moment people on the West side.
What do you find most distracting about your urban environment?
Well, I live in Chinatown in New York and it’s the ultimate urban experience. Not only am I anonymous because I’m among nine million people, but I’m in Chinatown where I’m not part of this community so I’m doubly anonymous. I like to say that my place in my neighborhood is like a mailbox. If my neighbors could walk through me, they would. I’m just an obstacle in their way, I’m not part of their community at all and I really quite like that. I like being ignored and anonymous in my community.
What do you feel is unique about your city?
Compared to a lot of cities, one thing that’s nice about it is it’s very busy during the day and very quiet at night. Whereas a lot of New York stays busy during the day and the evening.
What artists have influenced your practice the most?
For some reason I often think of Leonard Cohen who actually lives in Los Angeles. I like his balance of kind of pretension and intellectualism and also there’s a sense of humor and humanity. That’s something that I aspire to. I don’t make claims to be at his level of quality, but that’s something I find inspiring.
Images courtesy of the artist
THE 20+20 PHOTOGRAPHY ISSUE
Chris Buck is featured within Installation Magazine’s special 20+20 Photography Issue, which highlighted 20 Los Angeles and 20 New York City photographers. Download the full issue on your iPad and iPhone.