That’s not me
Where I please
I walk through walls
I float down the Liffey
I’m not here
This isn’t happening
I’m not here”
Radiohead, “How to disappear completely”, written by Colin Charles Greenwood, Edward John O’brien, Jonathan Richard, Guy Greenwood, Philip Selway, Philip James Selway, Thomas Yorke, Thomas Edward Yorke. Copyright ©Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., 2000.
During this Module, analysing the work done by different artists looking for visual references, I had the chance to observe many ways in which a sitter, and his individuality, can disappear, often in a fusion with the surrounding environment.
In the past I focused my attention on Francesca Woodman’s “Space2” and on the way she often used objects like mirrors and wallpaper to partially hide her identity, becoming almost an element of the room she portrayed herself into.
P021-1/1, 11/30/05, 3:51 PM, 16G, 4072×4424 (752+840), 100%, Cruz 080205, 1/120 s, R67.3, G57.4, B71.7
P020-1/2, 11/30/05, 1:55 PM, 16G, 4624×5236 (517+964), 100%, Cruz 080205, 1/120 s, R67.3, G57.4, B71.7
Francesca Woodman, Space2, Selection of images, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978 . ©Betty and George Woodman.
More recently, I even had the chance to analyse the work done by David Lynch in his “Women and Machines” in which the Director plays with double-exposure to create transparent female naked dissolving figures that, with their pale frailty create a contrast with the concreteness of the machinery on the background.
David Lynch, Women and Machine, 2014, USA. ©Lynchnet/David Lynch, 2014.
Today, reading again my article about Spencer Tunick’s human installations, I started wondering: how to disappear completely?
I made myself this question many times in my life, since that sense of awkward linked to my relationship with others, due to my past physical disability and the anxiety disorder that still affects me, made me often desire to become actually transparent. But then I wondered: can an individual completely vanish becoming something else? How to analyse this point in a more positive way? Are there examples in Photography in which individuals disappear to create something beautiful and in which there is no trace of torment or melancholy?
I suddenly remembered Johannes Stötter’s prints I had the chance to see while in London and the use he made of body-painting, which is absolutely different compared with Tunick’s one. This Italian artist, combining colours, poses and different backgrounds, recreates natural elements such as animals, rocks and trees, but also musical instruments and landscapes.
Johannes Stötter, Stonebeach, 2012, South Tyrol, Italy. ©Johannes Stötter, 2012.
Something different has been made by Orly Faya in her “Mergings”. She is not simply a body-painter: her works are proper ceremonies that she defines as “a unique opportunity to become ONE with yourself and the Earth in a multi-dimensional, multi-sensory way” (Faya, 2017). She considers her work as “Therapeutic Art”, mixing creativity, nature and yoga.
Orly Faya, Mergings, Northern Rivers, 2015, Rocky Creek, Australia. ©Orly Faya, 2015.
In this case, we don’t simply speak of pieces of Art, but healing experiences through a deeper connection of the participants with Earth.
Another variation on this theme is the concept of “Bodyscapes”. I could find different artists who created them from different perspectives and with different techniques. In these cases, we go back to the idea of Art Installation to create landscapes using human bodies. Of course, the results are completely different from artist to artist. In his series, Carl Warner contort and manipulate bodies playing with poses, perspective and Photoshop to recreate deserts, mountains and valleys made of body-parts. Like what did in most cases by Spencer Tunick, the Londoner artist uses skin tones’ combinations to create a sense of place. The difference between the two is that he does not create live-installations while shooting: he creates those photographs during the post-production phase, starting from those different elements and details portrayed with his camera.
Carl Warner, Bodyscapes, The desert of sleeping men, 2013, London, UK. ©Carl Warden, 2013.
Allan I. Teger’s “Bodyscapes” are completely different from the previous ones. He basically works in black and white and into his photographs nude bodies are often still recognizable and yet they perfectly work as landscapes in which the artist insert miniaturized subjects using small toys. His work is completely studio-based and it evolved from his studies in Social Psychology. As he stated presenting his work on his official website, “I wanted to demonstrate in art the ideas that I was studying and teaching. The theme that occupied my thoughts was one of multiple realities… In 1975 I turned to Photography as the medium to illustrate the coexistence of two realities” (Teger, 2017).
Allan I. Teger, Bodyscapes, 1995, Philadelphia, USA. © Allan I. Teger, 1995.
He decided not to use post-production to create his photographs because he wanted to create something that could have been interpreted as “real” somehow, shooting the naked bodies and the figures on them at the same time. It is an interesting fact that my research took me to his work: I have a similar Academic background since my BA final dissertation was related to Social Psychology; this makes me deeper understand his curiosity in exploring perception’s boundaries.
I concluded my research with the observation of the “Bodyscapes” created by Jean Paul Bourdier. The used style, here, is again completely different, but still blurring the boundaries between photography, poetry, painting and performance art. He still works completely in analog, avoiding to modify his shots in post-production: what his audience observe is exactly what was in front of his camera. Using body painting again, he employs his sitters’ skin as a canvas, creating a union with natural landscapes on a visual level. Similarly to Orly Faya, he wants to create corporeal experiences that represent the strong relationship between human body and the Cosmo. Of course, this is not made by ceremonies and yoga, but with the creation of surreal images, sometimes visually blending bodies with the landscapes and sometimes making them stand out against the backgrounds.
Jean Paul Bourdier, Bodyscapes, 2005, California, USA. © Jean Paul Bourdier, 2005.
I am sure that all these references will provide my future practice with further prompts to analyse and, maybe, they will equip me with a different point of view and with a different answer to the question “How to disappear completely?”.
Bourdier Jean Paul, Bodyscapes, on Jean Paul Bourdier official website http://www.jeanpaulbourdier.com/
Greenwood Colin Charles/O’brien Edward John/Richard Jonathan/Greenwood Guy/Selway Philip/Yorke
Thomas Edward, How to disappear completely, 2000, © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
Lynch David, Women and Machines, 2014, Lucca Film Festival, Lucca, Italy.
Lynch David, Lynchnet http://www.lynchnet.com/
Faya Orly, Mergings, Orly Faya’s Official website http://www.orlyfaya.com/mergings1.html
Pisa Pierluigi, Carl Warner, ecco gli scatti dei “Bodyscapes” del fotografo di Liverpool, on Huffpost, July 2013 issue, http://www.huffingtonpost.it/2013/07/30/carl-warner-bodyscapes-fotografo-liverpool_n_3675747.html
Stötter Johannes, Official Website http://www.johannesstoetterart.com/
Teger Allan I., Bodyscapes, https://bodyscapes.com/pages/about-us
Tunick Spencer, official website http://www.spencertunick.com/
Warner Carl, Bodyscapes, on Carl Warner official website http://www.carlwarner.com/photographer/bodyscapes/
Woodman Francesca, Space², 1975-1978, Providence, Rhode Island http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space-providence-rhode-island-1975-1978-ar00350