In your exercise for this section, you’ll produce a piece of work that reflects on representations of the self in digital culture.
Produce a series of 6 photo-based self-portraits that use digital montage techniques to explore different aspects of your identity.
Produce a 500 word blog post outlining your working methods and the research behind your final submission. (Whose work did you study in preparation for this exercise? Why did you use the techniques that you did and how effective do you think your choices have been, for example?)
This work reflects the digital representations of myself which reference different aspects of my identity.
The original choice was between using photographs in the family albums and photographs of myself. Because I do not like seeing images of myself and because I have an aversion to photographing people in general, I chose to tackle this option to see if I can overcome this obstacle in my photography.
The work which inspired me most was Vibeke Tandberg’s experimental self-portraits using photomontage as seen in her “Herself – Photography” on the Youtube film(1) and her “Undo” (2003) series. The freedom and variety of expression evident in her work was exciting and wide ranging: from presenting herself pregnant to using a lightbulb and a corner of a cube to say something about herself, which, to me, is quite liberating. Her manipulation of her photographs ranges from being so subtle that the viewer is not sure if what they see is what is there, to her obliteration of certain elements of her work ( her scribbles over her Amy Winehouse look-alike self) which leaves no doubt about what she has done. The photomontages in (1) present quite dark, disturbing images whereas her pregnancy ones at first sight look quite normal but then you start wondering if they have been manipulated or not because they don’t look quite natural enough. In the 2005 article in Frieze, Christy Lange asks us, in looking at Tandberg’s ‘Undo’ (2005), “What should we make of her self-portrayal not as an anxiously expectant mother but as a lonely woman whose body is peculiar and unfamiliar to her?” (2) The artist portrays her pregnancy not as a natural marvel but rather as this alienating physical experience in which “her swollen belly is like an unwelcome and stubbornly shifting mass that her position must constantly accommodate.” (2) This too is part of an uncompromising approach to her practice: why shouldn’t she?
In Lorraine Rubbio’s, August 28, 2014 article (4) on Tandberg, she gives us a glimpse of what constitutes the latter’s thinking on artistic practice: “it is a mix of self-awareness and fragility, two rather opposing characteristics that I think define the very core of any artistic practice.”(4) When you see her images, however, it is difficult to see that fragility: she portrays herself in very harsh, face-on terms with the viewer – challenging rather than seeming vulnerable, which, to me, is implied in fragility.
That fragility and self-awareness features in my poem, although I had not read up on Tandberg when I wrote it. In the rest of the images, I have used digital technology to cast myself as an artist’s subject as well as a subject in front of a camera’s lens. Unlike Tandberg, I have not been subtle in the methods I have used to process the images, and that is something I would like to explore further. I am not questioning how women are represented, nor am I revealing any psychological darkness, as far as I am aware. My images reflect the different identities I have chosen to depict: the positive, colour-loving optimist; a gourmande who cannot resist wine and chocolates; an older person who realizes she is fast approaching the end of the line; the nature-lover tending sometimes to feel part of the geology; the drama-queen; the complex character who is sometimes lost and confused; the image-maker, both in text and in pictorial representation. Unlike Tandberg’s work, mine has the occasional flicker of light humour; image 3 plays with the idea that it might not be manipulated: an image standing where others have stood and it too is on its way out.