A Different Type of Encyclopedia 

Batia Suter’s “Parallel Encyclopedia Extended” is a must-see exhibit. 

Mel Gibbons – Production Manager 

Not everything in life is black or white. There is more to be seen between these two shades as long as you open your mind – which is exactly what one must do upon stepping into the Polygon Gallery’s newest exhibition, “Parallel Encyclopedia Extended,” by visual artist Batia Suter. The display is the first the Swiss artist has shown in North America as a solo exhibition. Suter’s work consists of digitally enlarging groups of photos from various second-hand books she has collected over the years. “The investigation of the image, how image[s] triggers us and why they trigger us,” she said in an interview with Janice McLaren at the Photographer’s Gallery vimeo channel. This is what sparked Suter’s interest in the investigation of images. 

The artist indicates that, oftentimes, she bought books just for a single image that drew her attention and, over time, her collection started growing. Her curiosity drew her to wonder why images stimulate us, thus she began to scan the pictures that provoked her in various ways. Once she had a large number of images scanned, she then continued to play and explore with the placement of the pictures. Through this exploration, Suter brought her book Parallel Encyclopedia to life, which currently exists in two volumes. “It was a lot about the screen of images and their grey scales,” Suter explained. “When you place an image in different ways with another grid, another time, another structure, then you can get it to awake in a way.” 

The exhibit is divided into two sections. The first section presents the book itself while the other is a vast “pop-up” collage. This “pop-up” section embellishes the images the artist has extracted from her book collection. By enlarging the photographs, Suter unveils the details within the pictures and notices new things by changing the image’s size. “For me, it is very interesting to put a certain selection out of the book, blow them up, and bring them together in a completely different way,” she said. 

The four once white walls are ignited with beauty through striking grayscale images. Each image tells a story that is relative to each person’s perspective and imagination. The exhibition reveals how everyone is unique and that art is personal in many ways. One set of photographs might appeal to each individual differently. Suter would be intrigued by the narratives that emerge from people observing her art. 

Ambling through the exhibition, the extravagant lines, angles, textures and innovative compositions within each photograph prove hypnotic. The scientific section is permeated with distinct images, fun and rhythmic patterns, such as molecules displayed on flowers, leafs or insects, that were designed to draw the eye inward.  

For example, one of the photographs on display portrays an enormous fly that, in a large scale format, appears in a gorgeously exotic way. By enlarging images, one’s perspective and opinion of a particular thing or animal can change. Suter’s “Parallel Encyclopedia Extended” is a true guide into an alternate reality that will grant you a different perspective on this world. 

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