Notes on Body Sculptural pieces by F. Woodman & A.Hamilton

 Francesca Woodman From the Angel Series 1977 Black & White Photograph, Gelatine Silver print on paper

Francesca Woodman From the Angel Series 1977
Black & White Photograph, | Gelatine Silver print on paper

Ann Hamilton From the Body object Series 1984

Ann Hamilton
From the Body object Series, 1984

Francesca Woodman’s theatrical approach seems to be evident in most of her work. Figure 1, part of Woodman’s Angel Series, produced between 1977 and 1978, happens to be a great example of the theatrical character of her work. Within the center of the black and white photograph, two ‘shy’ figures are peeking in the room in front were the camera is set. Hiding themselves behind what appears to be, a big piece of paper and rectangle wood, the two figures are playing hide and seek with the photographic lens. The models are almost entirely hidden leaving only two or just one limp appearing. Francesca Woodman’s body is often surrounded, partially hidden or even replaced by different surrealistic motifs such as mirrors, torn wallpaper, vases, white sheets, etc. If we carefully observe the figure standing at the left we realize that the photographic lens managed to capture part of its movement; as a result of leaving the shutter open for a longer period of time. The technique used, managed to steal and preserve few more moments witnessing the figure’s movement in space. What is truly magical in Woodman’s work is the result of this very extended exposure technique; body, object and surroundings are blended together and finally become one. Figure 1&2, constitute works of two different artists, Francesca Woodman and Ann Hamilton. Figure 2, part of Ann Hamilton’s body Object series, appears to have a lot in common with Francesca Woodman’s work. These similarities are drawn from the motifs included in the photographs, the patterns and the fact that both bodies seem to be partially hidden by different selective object. The artist appears standing in the middle of the room facing towards the camera lens. Just like in Woodman’s piece; her body is partially hidden, in fact, the artist is wearing what seems to look like a big pyramid-shaped object which looks a lot like the piece of paper wrapped around Woodman’s body. The object not only replaces her head but at the same time penetrates her flesh, becoming one with the body. This surreal and humorous act leaves the viewer questing the interpretation of these artworks.

What is interesting to note, is that performed photography is a category where ‘time’ represents a notion of great importance. Having in mind that performed photography consist of the mutual complementation of the performative act and the act of photography, we can not avoid referring, to a notion that encloses relationships with the durational quality image. As a result, the image stops being just a simple image but yet consists of the imprinting of an event. The work emerges were this ‘duration’ occurs rather than being captured by the notion of the occurring. In his book on Francesca Woodman, Chris Townsend (2006,p.7) commented on her work, suggesting that her photographs were “something more than just image…a thoroughgoing challenge to the certainties of photography: the fixing of time and space”. In addition, unlike documentary photography where the document operates as a witness of the event occurring, in the case of performed photography, the photographs are not any more a record of live events, since, the record and performative act cannot be solely distinguished.

What is generated through the junction of the performativity of photographing and the event occurring is what Alan Kaprow (2003) describes as ‘blurring of art and life’. This blurring accomplishes the creation of a document that has now adopted a more creative role in the adjustment of the live act. Having a record blended in a creative act, fact and fiction automatically become ‘one’. What occurs after this magical conjunction, is the formulation of a new medium, liberated form any criteria that another form of a document might undertake. Although a record has its primary role in documenting the live act, in performed photography, this documentation holds up another kind of reality, which hides features of the real reality event.


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