Saturday, December 15, 2007
face to face
photography is just one tool for artist Ann Hamilton, but I really like her ongoing series "face to face" for what it has to say about the interaction between the artist and the subject. she takes these photographs not with her eyes, but with her mouth, inside which she holds a pinhole camera. she is interested in the mouth as the site of the gaze,the slippage that is created as one sense is dislocated to another part of the body. in the resulting prints, she says, the shape of the open mouth mimics the shape of the eye in the photographs: "the figure becomes the pupil of the eye shape created by my mouth, much the same way as one sees a tiny image of oneself in the reflection of another person's pupil. The word pupil comes from the Latin pupilla, which means little doll or puppet."
(of course, the title "face to face" also makes me think of the quote from Paul's letter to the Corinthians "For now we see as through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." hmm. when was the last time i quoted the bible to illustrate a point?)
to me, this process also create a slippage between the power dynamics of the role of the photographer and the role of the subject. mouth wide open for minutes as a time, using her lips as a shutter, Hamilton places herself in a vulnerable position before her sitter. the idea of photographer's gaze, control, and ability to objectify the subject (er, subjectify!) are all called into question. the artist shall know only as she is also known.
no "decisive moment" here...
(seen via PBS's Art 21, check it out for a great introduction to her work)