Jordan Gale: ‘I was lucky’

I came across Jordan Gale‘s project It is what it is @ Lenscratch. At first, it was a darkness that grabbed my attention, but then something else triggered a different engagement with his work. In what seems like a statement about It is was it is, Gale mentions that the project “acts as a form of therapy” and then that “[he] was lucky”. Because I immediately empathize with this sort of processes, some personal memories came to mind. But, first, let us glimpse at Gale’s project:

© Jordan Gale, ‘Lynne’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Joe’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Chuck’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Tyler’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Anna’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Ben’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.
© Jordan Gale, ‘Homecoming’, from the series ‘It is what it is’.

First and foremost, I think it’s fair to say it’s an unpretentious work: in its effort to become a series (or project) Gale seemed to have resisted the beginners’s temptation to give in to a too linear construction, overly subdued to the narrative premises. On the other hand, some images lack autonomy and dynamics, as if they don’t know where they belong; sometimes because he’s too close to his subject, sometimes because the composition just fails to appear as ‘natural’ (meaning not staged) as it wants to be.

When one mentions the idea of photo-therapy, it’s difficult not to consider sincerity as the higher quality, aesthetic and ethical (if there is even a difference). Because in the aforementioned statement, found @ Lenscratch, Gale addresses the issues that drove him to do this series, I can only assume that maybe it’s the honesty of that drive that translates into the true darkness that I recognize in some photographs. Having said that, the series seems incomplete, as if the healing is yet to occur. 

When Gale mentions that [he] was lucky, I’m reminded of my own circumstances, although mine are fundamentally different from his. Last week, while visiting my mother, she ventured into memory lane and said something like “I always knew you’d be OK; the moral principles were all there”, to which I answered: “I was lucky”. What I meant was that I was lucky to have survived, which is precisely the same Gale implied with the same expression. Apparently, we both recognize chance played a major part in the path we took, at a given moment.

‘The dark hole’ was a recurrent ‘theme’ during my therapy sessions. I’m sure although it has a particular meaning, it’s also universally understood, so no need for further explanations. Anyway, what I want to emphasize here is that when in ‘a dark hole’, one looses sight and that void poses a very surreal set of challenges that go beyond moral values or principles (or whatever you want to call them). In my opinion, how one crawls out of ‘a dark hole’ is highly dependent on chance and sometimes a constellation of random events

But what part does photography in this plot?

Does anyone still doubt photography can be a potentially liberating therapeutic tool?  

Photo-catharsis by Leif Sandberg

So much has been said about Leif Sandberg‘s project Ending that words fail me. Still, the quality of his work and the importance it has for those, like me, who embrace photography both as a means of artistic expression, but also as a therapeutic tool, brought me here. 

© Leif Sandberg, cover of the book ‘Ending’.
© Leif Sandberg, from the project ‘Ending’.
© Leif Sandberg, from the project ‘Ending’.

At Lenscratch, Aline chooses to stick to Leif Sandberg’s description of his project, and, for starters, so will I:

 

The Ending project is my first major photo project, with its roots in panic anxiety and the fear of growing old. After surgery for possible pancreas cancer 2007, followed by a year’s convalescence, I was faced with the inevitable question of what to do with the rest of my life. A second chance. An interest in art and photography has followed me since my teens, although that was not my choice in life. Until now.

Death becomes palpable when it approaches, and the pictures contain questions of fear and uncertainty, but simultaneously the joy of aging together with a life partner. The pictures have grown over a five-year period. Often a photo session with an original idea inspired new pictures created in the moment and the plan had to give way for intuition and guts feeling. Possibly a way to get close to who you and exploring your inner self. – Leif Sandberg 2017-03-01

© Leif Sandberg, from the project ‘Ending’.
© Leif Sandberg, from the project ‘Ending’.

On American Suburb X, Brad Feuerhelm dares a more poetic approach:

 

Leif Sandberg’s “Ending” arrived in the mail with no mention preceding its arrival. Upon opening the package a feather and an anvil fell onto my groin. I have carried them since like a pebble in my shoe that I refuse to set aside or extract. The cover of the book is a stark and compliant set of suture stiches from a surgical embrace that I had gathered would be the nexus for my introduction within. And within the pages things would expand. Throughout the book, death and near death lay prostrate as illustrated by photographs of Leif and presumably his wife in various invocations between the slippage of time and the way in which light illuminates its half-steps of failure to recognize a insoluble self. Leif lies prone on cold wooded Swedish forests. Dirt covers his back, but his limbs refuse to stop their dancing. Saint Vitus speaks highly of Leif looking over the edge of a looming finitude. There is a rage within. A rage for a near miss, the brush with death like that pebble in the shoe that Leif retaliates against. The images are not grim, they are opposing. They oppose the inevitable. They express what it means to understand the value of life and its continuance. Leif has cheated the boney grip and is celebrating the severed tentacles wishing to charge him with a sentence of entropy’s gain.

Ending is all that I love in photography. It’s authentic, it’s dark, dynamic and sincere. It’s a part of the author’s life and energy that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It’s not like this life wouldn’t have been materialized if not for these photographs. It wouldn’t exist in the first place, for art happens in its making and another I (the only I that is an author) appears in the process. It’ refreshing to see. Although I do recognize some of the influences, I feel like I’m also offered an unique dimension, maybe that of Leif Sanberg’s passion for art and life. Thank you Leif!

How those who love us photograph us

retrato_maria

A portrait of me taken by my 5 years old niece forced me into this theme. As I stared into the photograph I wondered “do I really look like that”? The question is as simple as it is complex. I’m aware that the word “really” in this sentence is just a figure of speech, so to deconstruct the question means to think about the significance of the “look” and the “that”.

  1. Regarding the “look”: when one uses the word “look”, usually a comparison is implied. One usually means that something looks like something else. But what astonishes me here? For once the fact that I look older than I think I do; but most importantly the fact that the shape of my face reminds me of a specific head sculpture, one by Messerschmidt*, which just goes to show… well… nothing but that our imagination plays a key role in the way we go thru life.
  2. Regarding the “that”: I struggle to conclude whether there are universal properties in the “that” or whether I’m unable to interpret the photographic me without letting all my subjectivity take over. What I can say, with a certain degree of objectivity, is that this photograph depicts someone who seems to be experiencing a special moment; her eyes are joyful and tender and she looks extremely wrinkly, maybe tired. Apart from that, the “air” that feels this photograph is a mixture of two things (pretty much straightforward): how the photographer (my niece) sees the portrayed (me) and how the object wants and lets the subject see it/her/me

*Taking a short detour through Messerschmidt’s sculptures: the particular one I have in mind came to be known as “A Strong Man” and, as with many of his other sculptures, its traces and expressiveness mimic those of a clown, and a la folie moment, I must add.

kuspit10-7-10-14
© Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, A Strong Man, 1771-83, tin-lead cast.

Both my niece and I love clowns. I love dressing like a clown and have a darkish-looking clown tattooed, which my niece also photographed the same day. Is this proof of the power of perception? Is the “aura” of the clown-like tender happiness what establishes the intentionality of this portray, i.e., the relation between the subject and the object? It is possible that the reason I first fell in love with Messerschmidt’s heads was because they resembled the sort of expressions I thought characterized me?

*

Back to the issue at hand – How those who love us photograph us – I went back to my archive and searched for portraits taken by friends and family and came to the conclusion, now apparently easy to attain, that when comparing those portraits with my self-portraits (which I used to do quite a lot), they are the ones that seem to be more authentic, meaning that their ethos, their way of being and becoming is more truthful.

In a recent post, I shared a portrait taken by my boyfriend which surprised me for very similar reasons: for being able to capture a sort of expressiveness of my body and face that I was always unable to shoot. Looking at some of the portraits he has done of me (and I usually turn my back on the lens) again I recognized a high level of authenticity, meaning a truthful intention and an honest relation between the subject and the object: no purpose at all besides the playfulness and proximity of that relation.

In the process of looking at the portraits others had taken of me, I went back to my comfort zone: phototherapy. I realized that, by comparison, those portraits allowed me to think about my relationships with those who stood behind the lens. Won’t go into detail here, but it is clear that my persona has a sort of different photosensitive form depending on who’s looking at me. With some people I’m more present and open and with others I’m almost not there. Is it possible that by letting our loved ones photograph us we could get a clearer perspective on the sort of relations we get ourselves into?

retratos

⁞ Spencer Rowell’s therapeutic process ⁞

altfamilyalbum_02_purge© Spencer Rowell, from the project Pathography of An Artist, 2013-14.

Description: Session II (Ibid.) Rejecting the mother’s milk, perhaps the ‘feed’ is poisonous or unpalatable – yet what is rejected is full of light. (Eb., II. xx.) A triptych, religious-looking but based on a very non-sacred, commonplace piece of furniture. A dressing table, where a woman made themselves up, brushing hair, perfuming, covering up their blemishes, smells of sweat and whatever else. But instead of privately getting ready, this is a very public undressing with us as an audience. (Db., II. iv.)

excerpt of Spencer Rowell’s Externalise Me, Internalise You, as read in Uncertain States.

As much as psychoanalysis is concerned with the interaction between the outer world and its relationship with an inner world (how we take in and make sense of external events and how we put our inner thoughts and understandings back out into this outer world), my research documents a process by which, through the production of self-portraits and their assessment by psychotherapists, photographs may form a representation of an inner world of the artist and its relationship to external objects. Through practice, moving from a position of being psychically hidden, to a place of being observed; and through the production of these photographs and their exhibition, a way of gaining awareness of inner states. The process may be viewed as an artist’s emergence from this place of psychic retreat to a position of awareness and through this use of the camera combined with the mediation of the viewer, to be seen as a form of therapeutic process.

Each individual image offers a snapshot into these inner worlds and when these lost object representations are viewed as a whole, in sequence, over time, the narrative of an internal world may become more real to the artist and the viewer. The external world now becomes portrayed as a narrative of internal objects, vividly brought into reality through interpretation and exhibition. It is in the bringing together of these part objects, that a more complete image can emerge; to be seen in one light so-to-speak. Is this therapeutic work simply a form of self-imposed fragmentation followed by reparation, or is it, through the inevitable temporary loss of inner self, a form of diffusion and re-identity, or do I display my images, because of my incapacity to differentiate subject (the photograph) and object (internally me), from reality (externally me as the print) and phantasy of the image, (what it is/I am about?).

[…]

session8© Spencer Rowell, from the project Pathography of An Artist, 2013-14.

Description: Session VIII (Ibid.) And there could be an eye on the right, in the hair – this makes you reassess which part of the head you are looking at, the front or the back. Nothing is certain or clear or straightforward. (Eb., VIII. viii.) There are not there. (Db., VIII. ii.)

In psychoanalytical terms, Projection and Introjection are seen as representing opposite sides of this same coin; an unconscious form of communication and the basis of art appreciation and interpretation. In this context I will suggest that Projection and Introjection, used in this mature way, is more than simply an opportunity to appreciate and gain another level of understanding between the artist and the photograph but the photograph and the assessor/viewer, an opportunity to understand something of the inner and outer worlds of both artist and viewer; It is a place where ideas can merge and interrelate.

This process has its roots in early infant – mother relations; the infant cannot say how he feels, he simply makes his mother experience the same feeling. This communication is seen as them connecting in a deep and unconscious way, the mother will react, this will facilitate the infant’s psychic growth; the same happens in the therapeutic setting between analyst and analysand. Projection takes aspects of one’s internal world and puts them onto external subjects; an unconscious process of excretion and expulsion. I am also interested in how this relates to the reverse enactment; where the internal world of the viewer is incorporated into the image being viewed, It is this ‘output’ from the viewers’ internal world (the viewers’ own projections) presented as the written report, which can be seen as ‘input’ into the final assessment. Projection and Introjection is an intercommunicative process of shared understanding, it becomes a creative interplay of shared experience. This process as it occurs in child development can be dissected into three phases (Ogden, 1982), where the child as projector, ridding himself of unwanted bits, deposits into (not just onto) the receiver and recovers a modified version of these projections; without this third phase, the process is not of therapeutic help to the projector. This concept also parallels that which is undertaken by this project, where the photographer deposits into an image un-resolved, un-differentiated parts of his pre-verbal past, these messages are presented via a print for assessment and finally the artist recovers a modified version in the form of language. From this third phase the photographer seeks more awareness which is subsequently incorporated into art practice.

To look at Projection in theoretical terms, we see it along with Introjection as an organising structure; a process by which there is a constant interplay across shared boundaries. A bringing together of un-differentiated differences, it is the way the artist sees his world and how the viewer, in phantasy perceives that same world – that together they have the capacity to bring this shared experience together. Through this process we describe the world in subjective terms, by playing, inherently organising and continually unconsciously reflecting on the individuals internal world. Without Projection and Introjection there would be no comparison, no feedback, even in phantasy. Creativity is the inhabiting of these cross-borders, it is the art of playing within a shared experience. Any creative development comes from the constant interplay of Projective and Introjective structures; in this shared environment, communication of internal objects and their relationship with the outside world is experienced. The viewers’ interpretation of mywork is a process of formulating these internal boundaries. When confronted by an image, an unconscious personal representation is called for, a boundary is set; ‘this is I’ and ‘that is he’. A disidentification process, where the ego says, ‘I distinguish between self and object, I will create a boundary’. (Sandler, J. 1988). By instigating the notion of play the viewers’ boundaries become merged and temporally suspended with the image. Here the viewer brings life experience to the engagement and there is a sense of the artist analysing the viewer. This process is what Sandler calls ‘sorting out’, where ‘aspects of the object–representation are incorporated into the selfrepresentation and vice-versa.’ (1988) p26. This process is the basis for empathy in the consulting room.

But in context of the analysts’ interpretation of these photographic images, it is the reaching beneath the surface into what is the subterranean world of the artist in combination with the viewer, that is this shared experience. The ‘sorting out’ from which we want to gain knowledge, the shared world of artist and viewer, it is this externalisation of the work and expectations of a response that is described as creative interaction.”

[…]

session17© Spencer Rowell, from the project Pathography of An Artist, 2013-14.

Description: Session XVII (Ibid.) In Picture 1, no-one was looking out to sea, I don’t think, but that is happening here. As if the focus has changed from the past or present, to the present or future. Or the other way round. Either way, there has been a change. (Eb., XVII. ii.)

٠ From maturity to sincerity: a glimpse at the art of documentary photography ٠

7.Julia_from_I_Have_Something_To_Tell_You© Adrain Chesser, Juliann (left) and Julia (right), from the series I Have Something to Tell You.

excerpt of Adrian’s statement:

When I tested positive for HIV and was diagnosed with AIDS, I had an extreme physical reaction whenever I thought about having to tell my friends and family. Looking at this reaction more closely, I realized that it was the same reaction I had as a kid whenever I had to disclose something uncomfortable to my parents, fearing rejection or even abandonment if larger secrets were revealed.

It occurred to me that it might be possible to overcome this paralyzing fear by photographing my friends as I told them about my diagnosis. I invited each friend to come to my studio to have their picture taken, a simple head shot for a new project. They weren’t given any other information. For a backdrop I used the curtains from the living room of the house I grew up in. I put everyone through the same routine, creating a formal process that proved to be transformative. At the beginning of each shoot I would start by saying, “I have something to tell you”.

Each sitter’s reaction was unique depending upon their own experience of loss, illness and death, creating a portrait of unguarded, unsettling honesty. As a collective, the body of work speaks to the universal experience. The phrase “I have something to tell you” is often the preface for life-altering disclosures: pregnancies, deaths, love affairs, illnesses of all kinds, winning the lottery. The phrase becomes a kind of mile-marker in a life, delineating what came before from what comes after.

Cowboys_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Cowboys, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Easter_Sunday_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Easter Sunday, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Fronds_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Fronds, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Graveside_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Graveside, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

On_The_Day_I_Was_Raped_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, On the day I was raped, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Self_Portrait_Crying_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Self Portrait Crying, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Sunday_Dinner_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, Sunday Dinner, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

The_Deluge_No.10_from_Orange_Blossoms_Fire_Ants_And_The_Tyranny_Of_Memory© Adrain Chesser, The Deluge No. 10, from the series Orange Blossoms, Fire Ants, and the Tyranny of Memory.

Adrian’s statement:

In 2000 I decided that I would return to where I grew up, to photographically document what it was like in to live in a small town in South Florida at the turn of the millennium. After shooting for a month, deeply disturbing memories from my childhood began to surface, which triggered a nervous breakdown. When I returned home I went into therapy. It occurred to me that if I could make a photographic representation of these specific events from my childhood, I could own them outside of myself as an object and that these memories would no longer hold a shadowy power over my subconscious.

From 2001 to 2011 I returned to Florida at least once a year to make images with friends and family. I would either recreate specific events or I would stay present in my process for images to arise that could hold the emotional weight of memories that remained half shrouded. In the end what I remembered was my resilience and defiance as a child in the face of an overwhelmingly large and seemingly unsafe world. What that came to mean for me as an adult, was the realization that the spectres of my past had no real substance, as if they were only made up of vapor and light.

٠ Ochi Reyes: a photographic landscape of absence ٠

19mother04mother17mother16mother15mother06mother© Ochi Reyes, all photographs from the series Mother

“I have gone through the traces my mother left behind since she passed away almost a year ago now: her clothes, her shopping lists, the notes she wrote on her medication, her unfinished pieces of sewing and her photographs.

In this search I have been using different lenses to get closer and closer until I finally used a microscope through which the referent disappears in what appears as a series of deserted and abstract landscapes, mirrors of my feelings. This process has been nothing other than a way to both understand her absence and to try to grasp onto whatever could hold her presence; a way to forget and to remember, a way to let emotions go as well as a way to constantly open the doors of these emotions to be able to feel.”Ochi’s statement

٠ Duarte Amaral Netto: It’s all real, you just need to give up on your anguish (II of III) ٠

Part I of essay here

_3_5© Duarte Amaral Netto, Ambient 4 (#3 e #5), 2004
48×130 cm. Lambda Print on Fuji Fine Art. Ed. 3 + 1 AP

Before going on to explore Duarte’s recent exhibitions – The Polish Club Case (2011), Z (2012) and Selective Affinities (2013) – I’d like to take a brief moment to glimpse at Ambient 4 (2004), particularly because of its evident cinematic qualities and because it makes me think of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry (2002). Nothing is depicted in these photographs as barely anything is happening in Gerry. But the simple thought of needing a plot to make something happen is a dumb one. Nothing happens in front of us that isn’t happening because we are put in the place of the observer. That doesn’t mean the event doesn’t take place in the universe, it just means it doesn’t happen for us. Blind people see as much happening as we do, for they have the same ability to conceptualize.

In a review of Gerry, Devin McKinney speaks of Gus Van Sant’s ability to find “human psychology signaled in the semiotics of physical landscape”. (2004, p.43) Might that be the case with the amount of layers implied in Ambient 4? Both Nature and Landscape have a powerful quality: they make us stare and by doing that, they open up the world for us. Ambient 4 might be about a rite of passage or about man-to-man relationships (represented by the two male figures) or even about man-to-woman relationships (humans representing the male, natural motifs representing the female). In either case, the humongous greenery is there so we are allowed to wander. And though these photographs are simple and quiet and apparently short-lived, they do justice to their universal quality of being a cut into the existential nature that is perpetuated among men.

Duarte Amaral Netto© Duarte Amaral Netto, The Polish Club Case (#19 Papin’s Birthday), 2011
52×60 cm. UV Print on Zincor. Ed. 2 + 1 AP

The Polish Club Case (2011), Duarte’s work that earned him a spot in Bes Photo in the following year, is, in my opinion, his most unsuccessful work. The work is presented as being a narrative about events taking place in Chicago in the 60’s. Following his tradition of constructing fictional narratives by (re)staging or (re)assigning different roles to those presumed to be (en)acted by the original element he chooses to play with, here Duarte takes a set of archival photographs, depicting everyday scenes, and displays them accompanied by subtitles that are not descriptive of the environment they belonged to. It is a simple discursive play, well known to the literary and cinematic field, as Godard’s so masterfully shows in Histoire(s) du Cinèma (1988).

The almost inexistent habit to discuss photography in our country, and the lack of good criticism as I’ve said earlier, paved the way for uninteresting takes on this particular work. It is my opinion that if it weren’t for that, Duarte could have gone further but, instead, he kept accentuating the importance of the configuration of the work, denoting that there was little beyond that. The art world pretends to love conceptual work, when in reality what it likes is not the art works themselves but the discourse about art. Though I am very fond of the conceptual approach to making art I struggle with the general lack of commitment and connection between the content, the form, and the how and where it is presented. The latter being what threw me off the Club Case.

It was exhibited in a particularly cold place, in a linear display, with small gaps as the sequence of photographs moved into another room and then into another room, and then back to the beginning. Everything looked too polished, too neat. The fact that it was clear Duarte wasn’t behind the camera on this one, accentuated the alienation of the author and denounced the game at play. Although the viewer has had a major role in art for a long time now, with installation calling him/her to be at the center of the stage, it isn’t pleasurable to be forced to assume the place of the investigator up front and realize that the work is all about a dialogue between the fact and the artifact, and that’s it.

Duarte Amaral Netto2© Duarte Amaral Netto, The Polish Club Case (#5 Quigley’s Classroom), 2011
52×60 cm. UV Print on Zincor. Ed. 2 + 1 AP

Duarte Amaral Netto3© Duarte Amaral Netto, The Polish Club Case (#7 Detectives), 2011
52×60 cm. UV Print on Zincor. Ed. 2 + 1 AP

There’s something about being an author that makes it a particularly edgy position to be in: one can easily fall in an authoritarian role, pending to (presume) to mediate between reality and the observer. This strategy, in my opinion, has little respect for a conscious viewer; it invalidates the possibility of an autonomous reading, by way of imposing a confined way of decoding. Duarte has since moved one to other works that also incorporate this process remain autonomous and that makes all the difference in the way the viewer is able to relate to them.

As I said earlier, the best about critic and general discussions about artists’ body of works is their ability to open the meaning of such work. In an interview conducted by Sandra Vieira Jürgens back in 2011, Duarte stated that the thread in The Polish Club Case is faith: “faith in its religious meaning and faith in its more abstract meaning, the one we can even place in the credibility of an image”. Though I’m filled with anti-religious impulses and I know very little about faith, I’ll go ahead and say that in order to have faith there needs to be something incomprehensible that paves the way for a revelation. This is not the case, there are a lot of unknown reasons and motifs and a lot of historical content evocative of hope and trust, but there’s too much reason to allow faith to step in.

The concept of phototherapy is not new but it has spread awkwardly. It also has nothing to do with Duarte’s work, but I’ll make my point in a minute. Phototherapy is not a practice from the art world, but from the scientific one. It defines a clinical procedure that uses “people’s personal snapshots, family albums, and pictures taken by others (and the feelings, thoughts, memories, and associations these photos evoke) as catalysts to deepen insight and enhance communication during their therapy or counseling sessions (conducted by trained mental health professionals), in ways not possible using words alone”, as defined by Judy Weiser. [i] It then was appropriated by different art practitioners, using it as a photo art therapy technique, Jo Spence being one of the most famous artists practicing and writing about the subject.[ii]

On the other hand there’s Annette Kuhn, feminist and theorist of art and culture, who has been developing several different methods of what could be summed up as hetero and autoethnographic visual work. What it means is that she works with  documents, family photographs, personal and collective memory, both for her theoretical work as by setting up workshops and having people come together to discuss their relation to particular images. Both Kuhn and Spence have set up protocols anyone can follow if one chooses to do memory work. Both acknowledge its capacity “to unlock meanings and insights extraordinarily readily” but Kuhn draws attention to the relevance others’ memories and others’ relations with their family albums has to our collective memory.

I say this is where Duarte’s Z project comes in. Z was the work shown at Bes Photo 2012, the biggest prize for photography-related work in Portugal, now extended to include Brazil and the PALOP’s.[iii] Duarte was one of four. Together with fellow Brazilian artist Rosângela Rennó, both their works reflected on the photographic medium, its limits, its specificities, but it was evident Duarte’s work was flying solo and how high, for it had a sort of infantile joy to it, something I’d never seen before on his work. Duarte’s work had reached adulthood.

Duarte Amaral Netto0© Duarte Amaral Netto, Z (Z, August 1939, Harz – Germany), 2012
65×50 cm. Framed Inkjet on Fine Art. Ed. 2 + 1 AP

Z came about when Duarte found a set of photographs from a family member depicting his voyage to Germany in the 1930’s to study aviation. He then mixed this set of images with others from an archival of a plastic surgeon and with some of his own and created the fictional story of Z, a physician from Coimbra, specialized in facial reconstruction, who goes to Germany to study as an aviator and gets caught up in the middle of World War II. The exhibition comprised a huge amount of images, interweaving manipulation of historical documents, archival photographs, original photographs, a slide projection and fake family albums.

Because the idea for this work (and for The Polish Club Case also) was triggered by a photograph which ended up being included and (re)shown, Duarte’s latest projects tend to be put in the context of the archival genre, when I dare to say what triggers Duarte is storytelling, either in the photographic, cinematic, musical or literally form.  And this thread is his consistency, although time can prove me wrong.

text by Sofia Silva (to be continued)


[i] Definition by Judy Weiser, from the PhotoTherapy Center at: http://www.phototherapy-centre.com/

[ii] For example, Jo Spence’s book Cultural Sniping: The Art of Transgression, (1995) where she talks about the art of Reworking the Family Album.

[iii] the group of Portuguese-speaking African countries

Baker, G. (2005) Photography’s Expanded Field. October, Vol. 114, pp.120-140

Fried, M. (2008) Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before, London: Yale University Press

Groys, B. (2013) Art Workers: Between Utopia and the Archive. [online] E-flux journal, #45, Maio

Jürgens, S.V. e Netto, D.A. (2011) Entrevista: Onde está o facto e onde está o artifício. arq./a: Arquitectura e Arte, n. 98/99, pp.86-89.
Krauss, R. (1979) Sculpture in the Expanded Field. October, Vol. 8, pp.30-44

Kuhn, A. (2007) Photography and cultural memory: a methodological exploration. Visual Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3, pp.283-292

McKinney, D. (2004) Review. Film Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp.43-47

 

┐ Donald Goddard and Hannah Wilke – Love made possible └

All reproductions of Hannah Wilke’s work were removed due to copyrights issues. Here’s the link to her virtual home.

© Hannah Wilke, My Country tis of thee, 1975

Lil Picard: I see you are a collector of Art Deco objects. Why?

Hannah Wilke: I’ve always collected things. Objects have always been important for me. But the older I get the less I need things, especially since I am concerned with my work now. I haven’t been really colJecttng much lately. My work is my collection; the small sculptures replaced the objects that had been made by society, and my work is more important now than any objects I might collect. My own works are my icons.”

excerpt of Picard, Lil. “Hannah Wilke: Sexy Objects.” Andy Warhol’s lnterview, January 1973.

© Hannah Wilke, Pink Champagne, 1975 latex with snaps 45.7 x 137.2 x 17.8 cms

© Hannah Wilke, Landry Lint, C.O.’s, 1974, set of 12 sculptures, Lint, various colors, 13-1/2 x 13-1/2 inches

Goddard: In the beginning, she gave me a lot of direction. But then as time went on, she hardly said a thing. She would go from one place to another. She would go up a ladder, and I would take a picture from below. She would lie down with a gun in her hand as if she were dead. She would arrange herself in relation to the space she was in and how she wanted the composition to be. Eventually, I sort of knew what she wanted, so she didn’t have to say anything.
(…)

Takemoto: When did you start filming for the Intra- Venus Tapes? Did Hannah have a clear sense of what and how she wanted things documented, or did the filming become a more organic and ordinary aspect of your lives?

Goddard: In 1990 Hannah and I were in East Hampton. We had a rented house out there for the summer. We went to P. C. Richard and Son to buy some electronic equipment for our vacation, including a video camera and a TV set. Hannah just wanted to document her life and her friends. So that’s what we did. There was nothing planned about it. Of course, Hannah did a lot of performing – informal stuff, mugging and performing for the camera. Many of our friends and relatives are in the tapes, and we shot a lot of footage in the hospital. I remember when we went into the hospital for her bone-marrow transplant. I didn’t videotape the visit, but that’s when we started taking still photographs. Hannah was supposed to put on all these things that connected to her body for some kind of test, a cardiogram or something. The connectors were red with many wires and clips. Hannah thought they were wonderful against her skin and the blue-green gown and got very excited about the visual possibilities. That was one of the first pictures we took for the Intra-Venus still photographs.


(…)

Takemoto: Making work about illness sometimes produces the feeling of agency, as if you are somehow fighting illness by transforming it into something else. Do you think this resonated for Hannah? Was there a sense of urgency around making these pictures or documenting as much as possible as a way of slowing down time?

Goddard: I suppose. It was a way of measuring time. The idea was that Hannah was going to show all this work, and the name of the exhibition was going to be “Cured.” So she was always thinking about the work that way. We also looked into therapeutic possibilities: macrobiotic diet, nutritional regimens of various kinds, and alternative doctors and treatments. She read a lot and exercised a lot. Perhaps, all of that is a way of trying to slow down the inevitable. You are doing things that fill your life. It’s as desperate as life is. Life is always desperate. But it was a matter of living rather than dying. Making art was really about living.

excerpt of Looking through Hannah’s Eyes: Interview with Donald Goddard, conducted by Tina Takemoto, in Art Journal, Vol. 67, No. 2, 2008

┐ Kathleen Robbins └

© Kathleen Robbins, Untitled, from The Hostess Project

“In an effort to further inhabit my grandmother’s memories as a young wife, I began an autobiographical, photographic record of my experiences with her recipe journal. This ongoing project is as much a social experiment as a nostalgic experience. I dress in her clothing, prepare meals based on her hand-written recipes, serve invited guests, and perform the role of hostess. I prepare dishes based on her hand-written instruction: her recipes. Aspics, croquettes, meatloaf with pickle and egg garnish . . . And I photograph the results.


In all of my work, I am interested in trying to create larger units of meaning through editing. With The Hostess Project, the photographs and the handwritten recipes are interwoven into sequences and pairs, which illustrate a more complex experience, divided in time and space. Tiny’s recipe journal includes details about intimate family gatherings. I prepare the recipes, not to recreate their associated events. (To recreate any of these gatherings, a deceased family member’s birthday celebration for instance, seems oddly irreverent; see Figure 2.) Rather, the performance of the meal is about inhabiting certain aspects of my grandmother’s memory. The recipe book reveals something compelling about Tiny’s friendships, her marriage, my grandfather’s suicide, and her subsequent years spent alone on the farm. Lists of ingredients are scrawled on the backs of envelopes and scraps of yellowed paper. The book is stained with drips of grease and drops of cream. If my grandfather enjoyed a dish, this is noted in the margin. Recipes are revisited and journal entries revealed first, the details of dinner parties and holidays and, later, why it was too unbearably sad to prepare my grandfather’s favorite dishes. In this respect, the food becomes almost beside the point.”

excerpt from Kathleen’s article on The Hostess Project

More of Kathleen’s work here

┐ Hannah Wilke #2 └

All reproductions of Hannah Wilke’s work were removed due to copyrights issues. Here’s the link to her virtual home.

© Hannah Wilke, Brestplate, 1981

© Hannah Wilke, Self-portrait with floer, c.1958 and Hannah and Chaya, 1984

║ Valentina Bonizzi ║

© Valentina Bonizzi, Untitled, from the series Work and Intimacy, 2009

© Valentina Bonizzi, Untitled, from the series Work and Intimacy, 2009

“This project is about Italian women who emmigrated to Scotland. The photography research presents the way they view their job as the bridge which connects them to Scottish society. It explores the intimacy within their own houses. A space where objects and colours travelled with them, giving a foundation to their identity.”

║ Nicky Bird ║

© Nicky Bird in collaboration with Mary Kennedy, Lethanhill, Dunaskin, Lethanhill old school 1940-1?, from the series Beneath the surface / Hidden place, 2008

© Nicky Bird in collaboration with Mary Kennedy, Craigmillar, Edinburgh Back Green, Back of Niddrie mains drive summer 1968, from the series Beneath the surface / Hidden place, 2007

“The history under our feet to the time when our own may be under foot in future: this was the central theme of this project. It set out to see how photography and archaeology could be incorporated in both literal and metaphorical ways to speak of ‘history’ – particularly history that is within living memory connected to a changed, erased or hidden place. The project worked in six locations across Scotland, in close collaboration with a range of individuals. The family snap played a central part in the process – see examples below of photographs of places that have undergone major change and in which personal history has been ambiguously caught.”

artist statement

to see more of Nicky’s work click here

║ Hannah Wilke ║

All reproductions of Hannah Wilke’s work were removed due to copyrights issues. Here’s the link to her virtual home.

“The motif of symbolic woundedness, as tied to the social experience of femininity, prefigured Wilke’s development of physical illness, a lymphoma diagnosed in 1987 and around which the Intra-Venus series was articulated. While Wilke’s work from the 1970s suggests that the “wounds” of femininity, as experienced in patriarchal culture, might one day be removed or transformed, the same could unfortunately not be said of her disease, which proved fatal in 1993. Besides the psychoanalytic connection between the sight of the female body and (the threat of ) castration, it is possible that Wilke’s visual association of womanhood with woundedness might have stemmed from witnessing her mother’s breast cancer. In effect, Wilke began to perform nude in 1970, after her mother’s mastectomy.12 Wilke’s exposure to her mother’s “real wound” may thus have inspired the analogy she drew in turning the hidden, psychic wounds of femininity into meaningful physical marks. That woundedness should appear as a motif to figure both visible and invisible pain is not surprising, considering the  ncommunicable nature of suffering. If pain, both moral and physical, is pre-symbolic,13 changing, and ungraspable in nature, then the transmission of such experience needs to be translated into a clearly identifiable form. From this perspective, the motif of the wound not only emerged in Wilke’s practice as the physical consequence of illness, but also was employed as an active, signifying mark, which visibly indicated the non-figurable pain that brought it into being.”

Tamar Tembeck

║ Sunil Gupta ║

© Sunil Gupta, Pentamedine / Attitude, from the series From Here to Eternity, 1999


© Sunil Gupta, Chicago / Hoist, from the series From Here to Eternity, 1999

“I made this work partly in response to a period of illness brought on by the HIV. I thought that it might be time to thinks about how the virus affects my life…”
Sunil Gupta

To view more of Sunil’s work click here.

║ Judy Weiser – Photography as a verb ║

“[…] This, then, is the crux of phototherapy: photography as a verb – learning about people’s inner worlds as expressed not just in the passive-verb-sense of evaluating product-print, but also (and especially) in the very active-verbe-sense of learning valuable cues to behavior and perceptions by skilfully observing how and why an individual chooses to select a certain photographic solution to meet the requirements. […]”
Judy Weiser

This is from the article “Phototherapy: Photography as a verb”, published in “The BC Photographer”, on the Fall of 1975.

To read full article click here

║ Jo Spence (Phototherapy) ║

© Jo Spence, What 1991 felt like… (most of the time)



© Jo Spence, Museum Specimens

 

© Jo Spence, from: Narratives of Dis-ease, 1990

 

© Jo Spence, from: The Picture of Health, 1982-86
“I am continually asked, “what is photo-therapy?” [To me] it means, quite literally, using photography to heal ourselves. ..I have been working on my stress and anxiety levels, reviewing my life in general and trying to understand the part that psychic life (fantasy) plays in my well-being, or otherwise…. Ways in which I have used the camera, therefore, include taking naturalistic photographs as things happened to me and around me, staging things specifically for the camera, using old personal photographs as a starting point and reinventing what they mean. The whole technique depends upon expecting photographs to help us ask questions, rather than supplying answers. Using this framework for photography, it is possible to transform our imaginary view of the world, whilst working towards trying to change it socially and economically.”
Jo Spence