The project “I can hear you now” started from the idea that we live in a world virtually connected, but, at the same time, people are disconnected among them in the actual one. Relationships and behaviours are influenced by social norms that ask people to be a constant positive role model or not to express negative emotions. We often communicate with small talks avoiding to deeper analyse each one’s inner self and so what I am trying to do is enhancing that type of communication through a visual experience.
I focused on the act of screaming because it’s considered as a negative act, and so, giving positive connotations to something negative, I might have the chance to transform a non-communicative social habit to a communicative one. Reasons that make screaming liberating are various and they can all be conveyed in a unique action which allows sitters to express their discomfort through a sound able to release negativity and give space to what life has to offer them, avoiding to be glued to their past. This is the concept behind the naming: a way to make this interior process audible to the subject himself and to the audience that will be enabled to better hear and understand others’ “negativity” expressed in a constructive way.
I started from Doctor Paul Ekman’s studies, which analyse facial micro-expressions to understand those emotions that a subject is trying to communicate or to hide. He focused on the idea that we all facially express emotions in the same way and so, creating a big amount of portraits, I could enable viewers to detect, analyse and understand those similarities in all portrayed subjects and to better interpret what their feelings might have been while those photographs, that freeze a human experience and “portray a portion of reality” (Szarkovski, 1966), to quote John Szarkovski, were taken.
To resume the aim of my research, I am trying to make people facing their souls while observing something expressed by others, because, as Carl Jung stated, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” (Jung, 1928) and I am doing it by creating visual examples they can confront themselves with, because, to use Albert Einstein’s words “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only way” (Einstein/Van Ekeren, 1988).
As previously discussed in my CRJ, I am trying to create a structure for this project that can be considered more as a visual experience than an exhibition of my work. My aim is to create a path that viewers can follow, to place my work in a similar way to what Daniel Gustav Cramer did with his “Trilogy”, in which Arielle Bier saw “guiding devices, like a trail of breadcrumbs” (Bier, 2014).
Since my desire is to connect different professional fields and different forms of art, I will link still and moving images by the use of different approaches and techniques. I think that the best way to start this kind of interior journey is by portraying the state of non-communication and lack of understanding among people by a “symbolic” introductive video, visually and conceptually referred to David Lynch’s work, which is often surreal and uses oneiric images and suggestive dialogues.
I will focus, then on video-art portraying actors while interpreting themselves through different acting techniques, such as the Silent Scream, revisited also by Ron Fricke 1992 film, Baraka.
The following ideal step would be my video self-portrait in which I show the whole intimate process to the audience, experiencing it by myself. I’ve been inspired by the British artist Matt White’s “Weighless” in the creation of this video, since even if the process I am living there is completely different, the visual solutions he found and his self-hypnosis journey has been an interesting visual reference. In this step, viewers will understand all differences between an acted process and an actual one, starting their interior path to empathise with others.
To connect, then, moving images and stills, I am creating video-montages out of those images of the whole process I’ve been witness of while portraying my subjects. I will require some musicians, then, to recreate those screams in music. I will show them the silent videos and I will ask them to interiorise what they will observe and to use their art to generate an audible scream, similarly to what John Lennon did creating “The Plastic Ono band”, reinterpreting, in music, Doctor Arthur Janov’s ‘Primal Scream’ technique.
A series of contact sheets will be a further passage to connect videos to portraits and they will both photographically exhibit the process itself and provide a further interpretation-key using also long-exposure to portray, like Francesca Woodman did in her “Space2” series, body movements that represent the subjects’ inner selves. Woodman inspired also my Confrontation sheets, the last step to arrive to all those portraits depicting the three main stages of the whole process. In these long-exposure portraits, I compare two different screams made by the same person, to make observers understand that individuals are multifaceted and to enable them to recognise different feelings through corporal movements and facial expressions at the same time.
The last, and main, point of my work will be a series of triptychs portraying sitters before, during and after the act of screaming which recreate, in images, what in a quote, attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer has been stated about the three Stages of Truth: “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident” (Shopenhauer, date unknown).
I am considering to create, at the end of the portrait phase, an area related to audience’s active participation to the project. During exhibitions, this could be done by asking viewers to scream and being photographed, so they will have the chance to become an integral part of the whole visual experience. Since this can’t be done in different contexts in which there is no physical participation of people, for instance on printed materials or Magazines or on the website and social media, I am considering to use Instagram to enhance participation by asking people to scream and take a self-portrait with a black and white post-production, while I will share images taken during the exhibitions. Those photographs, then, can be collected all together. This can be considered as the millennial version of what did by the photographer Katy Grannan who placed newspaper adverts asking for “people for portraits”, a project that culminated in her monograph “The Model American.”
Involving different professionals, such as psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, neurologists and artists, I will allow each viewer to approach to this topic, even if his approach is more science-related or if he is more interested in a social contextualization.
If I have to contextualise my practice from a Philosophical perspective, I would say that I am trying to use Photography as a tool for psychological support, to enhance empathy and communication. To quote Roland Barthes, I will use a “manifestation of the ordinary” (Barthes, 1993) to make my photographs existing to each observer in accordance to his own personal experience and using them as transfer of meaning. I will provide some words written by my sitters in their native language, but unrelated to their shots, to create a sort of ambiguity that might enhance interpretation together with the different visual techniques used. I will only guide viewers with images, recreating a path for them and with references and data, but I won’t give a personal interpretation. Even if I am the one who selects photographs that will be insert in triptychs, they will portray the actual, “the real before the photograph” (Barthes, 1993) and so, as the author wrote, “Death of the author frees us from explanation” (Barthes, 1977). It frees us from forcing the viewer to look at a photograph in the same way we do. It generates the opportunity for him to have an intuitive opinion and that is what I am striving to create within my own practice. What I do care is to push the idea of Photography as not only Art, even if Jonathan Jones would not agree with this concept, but as something useful to individuals and, subsequently, to those Societies they live in.
I opted for an inclusive approach because, ethically, it allows me to portray others while uttering negative emotions becoming part of the process myself. “I can hear you now”, starts from a personal perspective, talks about a personal problem and so it needs my personal participation as sitter. I position myself into the project, avoiding a voyeuristic approach, and this is the same thing I hope viewers will do: I hope they will consider themselves as an integral part of it, observing their inner world while observing others, as a mirror.
Considering Barthes’ idea of the “Channel of transmission”, in this case the context of consumption, I am opting to personalise my work in accordance to the medium that will convey it, because printing-related media and website require different expedients to recreate the path that can easily be recreate during a physical exhibition.
I am currently publishing images from my project on different social media, such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and I used some of them also to participate to “Lens Culture 2017 Portrait awards” to analyse their visual impact and better understand what works and what doesn’t and, subsequently, to “adjust” my practice in accordance to different opinions and perspectives, but always in full respect of my sitters, its aim and my photographic approach and style.
At a second stage, I will be interested in involving some Charities in different Countries, asking them to participate to this project by collaborating at its creation or providing places for exhibitions or linking it to some of their projects. I think it may be interesting analysing “I can hear you now” from different points of view, because I think it would be a good visual and artistic support to share information about their work in relation to different themes, such as fighting social isolation, support for people who experience psychological problems or anxiety disorder and it could be even interesting in relation to topics such as rage management and domestic abuse because my images and visual solutions, I think, are versatile enough to fit different contexts of consumption.
To better analyse this point, I am considering to create a Survey to understand how people from different Countries, ages, cultures and genders face the topics behind my research and how they would face my photographs. I want to understand and face the opinion of the largest amount of people I can reach, because I am measuring the success of my work in terms of active participation of viewers, in my ability to represent the diversity of individuals sharing common problems and by the usefulness it will have for audience and sitters, hoping I will experience its benefits myself.
Barthes Roland, The rhetoric of image, essay, 1964, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Barthes Roland, Camera Lucida, 1993, Vintage, London.
Barthes Roland, Death of the Author, Image-Music-Text, 1977, Fontana Press, London.
Bier Arielle, Time Travels in Frieze Magazine (16th April 2014)
Cramer Daniel Gustav, Trilogy, 2003-2013 http://www.danielgustavcramer.com/infotxt.html
Ekman Paul, Facial and micro-expressions analysis, http://www.paulekman.com/
Einstein Albert, Quotes, Words for all Occasions by Glenn Van Ekeren, 1988, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, p.234.
Fricke Ron, Baraka, (Silent scream), 1992 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhKu6zRMwJE
Grannan Katy, The model American http://aperture.org/shop/katy-grannan-model-america-book/
Grannan Katy, Boulevard https://fraenkelgallery.com/artists/katy-grannan
Janov Arthur, The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis, 1977, Abacus, London.
Jung Carl, Contributions to Analytical Psychology, 1928, Kegan & Paul, London, P.340.
Lennon John, Plastic Ono Band, 1970, Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon/Plastic_Ono_Band
LensCulture, Contemporary Photography, website https://www.lensculture.com/
Lynch David, Lynchnet, The David Lynch resource, http://www.lynchnet.com/index2.html
Schopenhauer Arthur, 2016, in Melissa Chu’s The three Stages of Truth, The Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-chu/the-3-stages-of-truth-in-_b_11244204.html
Szarkovski John, The Photographer’s eye, 1966, MoMA, NY.
White Matt, Weightless, 2008 http://www.matt-white.org/projects.html
Woodman Francesca, Space², 1975-1978, Providence, Rhode Island http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space-providence-rhode-island-1975-1978-ar00350