Black Box Residency
University of the Creative Arts, Farnham
Hand painted backdrop, carved polystyrene, paint, LED string lights, fog machine, Strobe light, Birdie theatre lights, lighting gels
For the past few years my art practice has been very inspired by the stories of Narcissus and Pygmalion (both from Ovid’s Metamorphoses) and how these stories have resonated through Western history as paradigms of our relationship to the self and the other, of a certain kind of male sexuality, and also of our relationship to the 2-d and the 3-d image. My research has fed into my wider concerns in my practice around the power of images, transferences and transformations, and the links between art making and sexuality. I see Narcissus’ Self vs Self-as-Object (or image self) anxiety inherent in an age of technologically mediated social interaction, pornography shaping desire, the idealised self and the screen interface.
My proposal for the Black Box at Farnham involved transforming the box into an ‘image making machine.’ Inside the machine several elements all add up to create a seeming façade for the viewer to take their ‘perfect selfie’. The installation involves a theatrical backdrop, blackout curtain, theatre lights and sculpted clouds that reference cheap prop making but also the overtly stylised baroque tradition of sculpture. A burgeoning theme in my work is exploring smoke, mist and clouds as uncontrollable filmic/art historical tropes that signify a change, a metamorphosis or a chemical reaction. Not only is characters floating in clouds a weird art historical trope that I wanted to explore, but it also references early electricity experiments and another version of the Pygmalion story – Frankenstein. From an art historical perspective clouds are interfused with supernatural meaning – between states, between heaven and earth, between divine bodies and earthly bodies. In this the viewer becomes an active participant in the image making process, not a consumer, but I want the experience to be ambiguous – who is the image creator (the Narcissus, the Pygmalion) and what is their agenda? We are not seeing the whole installation when we see the selfie, the installation is quite literally a ‘set-up.’ In the between-states of clouds and the theatrical set-up, the viewer, upon entering the black box, is in a transitional state – between viewer and performer, self and object, real and idealised.
Search #imagemakingmachine on instagram to see the viewers interactions with the artwork.
All images copyright of the artist