The Politics of Self & Other
My idea for a theme is a critical look at how we regard ourselves and others from a political angle. I want to explore ideas of ‘self and other based upon a form of political ideology and to be more specific consider how portraits are viewed from the angles of Identity, Presentation, Propaganda, Relationships and Psychology and explore ideas of how these portraits may vary from a self-portrait to portraits of others. The images that we project to ourselves and others are all various forms of masks appropriate for the occasion and these take on different identities and reflect relationships, psychology, presentation and even our projected propaganda of ourselves to others. My ideas were inspired through reading Between the Eyes, by David Levi Strauss, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, by Erving Goffman and Photography A Very Short Introduction, by Steven Edwards.
I propose to use masks and a computer tablet in all the portraits. Inspired by the COVID epidemic that has driven everyone to wearing a mask in public places I have looked at artists who have used masks in their own projects, such as: Ralph Eugene Meatyard, The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater, 1970-72; Gillian Wearing, Confess All On Video. Don’t Worry You Will Be In Disguise. Intrigued? Call Gillian…, 1994; Anna Fox, Zwarte Piet’ portraits, 1993-98; Andrea Serrano, The Klan, 1990; Cindy Sherman’s various projects; Francesca Woodman, Self-Deceit (Rome), 1977-79, Untitled, Providence Rhode Island, 1977-78.
I have the idea to use white paper-Mache face masks that can be purchased in craft shops for home-made Venetian style decorating. I feel that a mask can act like a blanc canvas allowing the audience to put their own face or faces of people that they know on to the masks. Moreover, due to the current COVID epidemic masks have become a required accessory for going out in public and so the physical wearing of masks has now become a part of our everyday life. My original thoughts about how I can ask strangers to use my masks was influenced by health concerns, (that is not to wear the mask but simply hold it in front of the face) but as I made my sketches it occurred to me that by holding the mask, it makes for a stronger metaphor for, ‘putting on a front’, (an idea from the book by Erving Goffman).
With regards to asking people who they think they are, I thought about how they identify themselves with others. I have the idea of asking people to choose a personality from any famous celebrity that they can identify with, either a personality that they think that they are like or a personality that they would like to have. Then finding a picture of that person on a computer tablet I then ask my subject to hold the image in front of their face for the photograph.
In his book, Between the Eyes, Strauss, writes that propaganda is something that we all demand and embrace in our everyday lives and it occurred to me that we use a form of propaganda in regards to our identities and how we present ourselves to others. I therefore want to try and explore this as part of my project for The Politics of Self & Other. For self, I suggest using a studio; but for other, I would prefer to use locations out of the studio.
Sketches and diagrams
The central photo works, but I am not sure the photos either side which is the camera photographing through the mask works.
I re-shot looking at how holding the mask may change the meaning. I believe I can use these different method of holding the mask to help convey different meanings.
This time using just one hand. This may also work, I like the fourth picture – holding mask from my left hand.
Using a computer tablet, I have looked at the practicality of this device to find and use images of chosen personalities and how that can be presented by way of holding it.
However, the problem faced with a tablet is that it requires WiFi which is likely to be problematic if I should try to use this beyond the studio and I may not always find a suitable headshot portrait suitable for the personality photograph. Moreover the tablet is borrowed and I risk the danger of it being dropped and damaged, therefore I will not pursue this idea any further.