Snapchat impressions decay by design, delivering instant non-gratification in real time (as though there could be any other sort). Mayfly polaroids of the here and now, they are – quite possibly – the extinction event of their less evanescent forebears, the picture postcard. Mass manufactured but handwritten, the sun-bleached relics of an obsolete medium trap time like an insect in amber, wishing that the recipient was there, was then.
Roy Voss’s All The World’s A Sunny Day at Blackpool’s Grundy Art Gallery takes a mortician’s scalpel to the exquisite corpses of photographic memorials to holidays past and – by juxtaposing a single excised word in faded longhand against the gloss façade of a vivid reproduction – enables them to speak anew. The result, arguably, has more in common with ventriloquism than with mediumship. After all, it is Voss who decides which word is spoken and, by coupling the collages in either matching pairs or mixed doubles, suggests what might be made of them.
Hung like a line of horizon across all four gallery walls, the works require an intimate proximity to be deciphered. Fittingly, it takes time to unlock the fossil record of times passing, to afford it passage to the present day.
Inevitably, some of what is revealed is hardly revelatory. An ambiguous “long” is prosaically linked to a definite pier, as “up” confirms the Tower’s heights. Less obvious connections, however, are more rewarding; “coast” captions vehicles captured in leisurely motion, as well as the shoreline they promenade, while “spent” hangs ambivalently amid chandeliered opulence. Still more effective are the puncture wounds that disrupt the endless sunny days with their uneasy obverse; a dark “off” whispers insistently over the white cliffs of Beachy Head.
Accentuating such disquiet, sundered from their couplings, words repeat, as though sentiments themselves are no more various than the production line copies they append, as if the richness of human experience can be reduced to the same few banalities, “over” (and “over” and “over”).
Perhaps Snapchat was always just a day trip away, after all?