It starts with a found film. According to Plesset, sometime around 1945 her grandfather, a division psychiatrist in the US Army during WWII, exchanged a pistol for a 16mm camera. The footage from this camera is a record of his passage through Europe during the last years of the war, lingering almost equally on landmarks, monuments, and landscapes as on bombed-out roads and abandoned cities.
Using found matter is not unprecedented, of course, but what makes Plesset’s project, Aftermath (Working Title), so interesting is her systematic way of working through this footage. Taking her cues from the sites in the film, Plesset has been following the footsteps of her grandfather in contemporary Europe, picking up paraphernalia and documenting both her own travels and the traces of what her grandfather shot. In a slow and exacting way, Plesset copies in oil paint what seems to be the unimportant, the mementos—scraps, tickets, photographs, etc.—she gathered in her travels onto large white panels. The paintings are sparse, leaving much behind, much unsaid, to be perhaps completed, but mainly further complicated by the presence of Document of a Travelogue by Lt. Col. Marvin R. Plesset, Division Neuropsychiatrist (2013). It is a document of a travelogue because Plesset isn’t showing the original 24-minute film, but rather, a version of the footage that she re-filmed while projecting the original on her studio walls.
The geography Plesset is dealing with here brings together a shared record—the images resulting from years of war, which echo with us to this day—and a personal one. The project is fragmented in its constant shifting between these two axes, but it’s the details—locations on a map, stills from the grandfather’s film, a stub from a museum ticket, a postcard—that make it resonate as a document that is intimate in scale and ambitious in the way it reflects history, technology, time, and how these alter our experience. —Orit Gat