I read a lot over Christmas trying to research how ‘The Body’ is used in traditional and contemporary art. My work is tied up with how we view our identity through our physical form – this is particularly relevant in when it comes to gay men. It is an unfortunate fact that the gay scene seems to be overly concerned with the perfect body and your sense of worth can be measured by how beautiful and physically fit you are. Despite the media seeming to show that everything is Gay (insert Jazz-Hands) in the gay world – a recent survey indicated that three quarters of Queer people felt the need to hide their sexuality. So my intent for this body of work is to explore how we mask ourselves in daily lives while also commenting on the insidious and ludicrous Physical Ideal that the media expects us to achieve.
The Polaroid medium carries with it connotations of celebratory occasions. I choose to subvert this medium with images of awkwardness and vulnerability. When the face is masked the body is depersonalized and the viewer is freed to see the subject as object. These Polaroids reflect the awkwardness of placing your body on display to be objectified exposing what is private while covering what is public.
Initial results were disappointing to my eye – film failure didn’t help this, but as the numbers have increased I have come to enjoy them more; especially as I see how each person chooses to mask themselves. One subject’s violent masking mirrors the violence he could face in his home country. The poses are suitably awkward and the full-frontal nature should invoke an uncomfortable feeling in the viewer. From the readings this week I have come to realize these Polaroids are as mixed-media artworks. An object in themselves – unique and tactile items with the potential for a sculptural installation where the images would not talk to each other much in the same way the gay world is cliquey.
This week’s readings have made me question where my work sits in relation to the wider photographic and art fields. I was too busy trying to create a way to get my message across in the most suitable medium that I hadn’t considered it’s end consumption. The contexts I feel these Polaroids feature include – Conceptual, Nude (or naked?), Portraiture ?, Social commentary (global commentary – should we ethically be dealing with countries that execute gay people), Pride (self-worth) and most importantly Queer Identity.
Queer culture has a rich and widespread tradition of exploring our identity through photography and other arts, but I do not wish my work to ‘preach to the converted’ so shall be looking into other ways to challenge society’s norms by pushing the comfort levels – much in the way that gay men are discomfited in many social situations.
I still have not found my ‘hook’ with the project yet; I have come to like them more but they do not grab me…there is no version of Barthes’ Punctum here. So my aim is to leave these Polaroids now as a small stand-alone project and move on to further research with the intent of finding a medium and style that enables me to explore further.