What does it mean to respond to your own body?
How can the body be visible and invisible at the same time?
How is the performance of self-portraiture another way of considering the body?
Where does physicality lie within a flat plane?
These are the questions that burn holes through my skin, aching to touch the light and explore the possibility of answer. I am never looking for a single answer, but a multitude. When making, I find myself recognizing the performance of making, the performance of existing, the performance of interacting with my own body and with the camera.
This work is rooted in the exploration of the long history of how the female body is represented in art, specifically photography. I strive to understand my place in the contemporary landscape of photography, collage, and how to take hold of the female gaze.
How Do I Call Myself Back to the Body is the title of the printed photographic collages. This line was taken from the most important book in both my life as a person as well as an artist. The Waves by Virginia Woolf is one that I have read multiple times, as far back as 2008. My copy has been taped back together, has variations of underlines based on when I was reading it and what stood out to me when. This book gave the loose title of my BFA thesis work, and now has lended its hand to this work as well. The Waves is considered to be Woolf’s most experimental novel, and the perspective from which the characters lend their voices blurs the line between poetry and traditional writing.
Rhoda is my favorite of the six characters, and the exact passage from which the title of my work comes is from one of her soliloquies:
“Therefore I hate looking-glasses which show my real face. Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my hand against some hard door to call myself back to the body.” (44)
While The Waves was the first clicking point of this title for me, a parallel came from Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.
“Ah yes, I think, digging a knee into the podium. Leave it to the old patrician white guy to call the lady speaker back to her body, so that no one misses the spectacle of that wild oxymoron, the pregnant woman who thinks. Which is really just a pumped-up version of that more general oxymoron, a woman who thinks. (91)
The metal plates have been titled: Is This Poetry if We Do Not Write It? This line is also adapted from The Waves, although the soliloquy here comes from the point of view of Neville. The use of Neville is less important, the line itself is important because the metal plates themselves are moments of solitude, moments of poetry. A great deal of my research during this thesis work has been through reading poetry and books that operate in the vein of poetry (Maggie Nelson, Virginia Woolf). A question that continuously comes to mind when reading is how can poetry be defined, presented, and visualized? The statement of “This is poetry if we do not write it.” was changed into a question for this work specifically for this reason.
“This is poetry if we do not write it.” (196)