Tuesday, May 27, 2008

jessie mann interview, part 6

part six of Seven Questions for Jessie Mann...

Subjectify: What’s going on in Untitled Plate 29? Are you looking in a mirror?

Jessie Mann: Yes, I am. A lot of the pictures were taken through a mirror, in fact. The use of mirrors in different ways is part of Len’s photographic practice. Furthermore, I found it helpful for technical and experiential reasons—I could check my placement and the scene—I could see what he was seeing. After we had taken a few through mirrors for technical reasons, Len and I began to see the poignancy of the act. The mirror functioned as a stand in, or metaphor for, the mirror world of our creation—my reflection: the mirror self which I assert. During the process of shooting the photos, by looking first at a reflection of what we were making I was reminded immediately of the other side of perception—both in the individual viewers mind and in the noosphere at large. The mirror image also references the reversed and upside down image Len is working with, and the flipped again final image we strive for. The above-mentioned plate was made very early on in our collaboration, and is one of the first of a trend that would develop wherein the mirror itself—or the studio behind the backdrop—would show in the picture. This coincided also with Len’s ideas of showing the wig line or my dirty feet marks on the background paper. To let the literal slip in to the image.

The mirror and the slipping backdrop help to remind the viewer of the self-conscious creation of it all. It is to assert, always, that it is the make believe that matters not the extent to which it is believable. It is our way of engaging the viewer in the putting together of it, it is a wink—that we know we’re acting but that you should just play along—or in the words of Erving Goffman—we tacitly agree to help each other preserve the performances through which we present ourselves to the world—but in our case and with the mirrors and slipping wigs it is not all that tacit, after all.

One of my favorite ‘mirror pictures’ is the Madonna one—which is a good example here, because not only is it one of images in which the mirror plays a significant role but also it is a good example of a woman—to hark back to the last question—who entirely crafted her own character and was able to create a fully realized woman (strong, creative, productive, and feminine) in the process and, she, as well, explicitly referenced the queer-queen love.

The entire plane of the photograph is the surface of a mirror, except for the stage and the actress. Furthermore, I am looking into the camera which is reflected back at the viewer, so that they too are engaging the lens. I am holding the shutter release in this one (not in this case to go back and give agency to the character as we discussed above, Madonna certainly doesn’t need any but) as a means to reference the ‘pose’ or the self-conscious vogueing which Madonna perfected. Also as a means to reference the extent to which Madonna created herself—something not seen often in today’s stars.

Len sits in the back of the room watching—also in costume—and seen as a reflection. This reminds the viewer that they are implicitly in the room, a reflection of themselves. That they are playing a part—I can see them, and they can see themselves. This is an awareness that Madonna certainly possessed—that she was a voyeur as much as an exhibitionist, she wanted to watch us looking. But also of importance here, and again I think the mirror plays a part in this, she realized that she too was exposing, not just herself, nor just ourselves, but the freestanding myth as well—she seemed always to know that she was playing the part of the anima—to which she and the public, were servants. Again, this is the reason for the slipping wig, and the double version of the figure in the image, to reference the costume used and the spector self created therein. Madonna knows it is all about the show, the reflection is the truth, that fundamental and superior to the self, is the character—the archetype—the myth.

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