During the year after I made Caving In to Disturbed Beauty I continued to wright and think about the work. I made this page to document those writings and showcase the thoughts I have had about/ connected to the project. So I hope you enjoy this continued fall into my Caved-In world.
I am really struggling with talking and thinking about this project. Throughout the whole experience I have been chasing an experience more than anything else. So how do you talk about that? What about that experience relates to what the work actually is? I’ll just start with the basics What? Kinda the hardest, but it’s a reflection of my emotional and physical experience while marking the work, this feeling of being trapped alone during the pandemic and desperately hoping making art would save me from that experience. It’s always about the viewers' intrusion on that desperation and aloneness. In that intrusion, there is the idea that both the resulting photographs and the making process are things that shouldn’t be touched by the outside world and yet they are, in fact they are ironically made to be touched. Why? To reach that experience. It has always been to reach an experience. What is that experience? One of both horror and fascination. I want the viewer to feel uncomfortable, to question their role in the work and why they want to view it and understand it. How? How is easy, it is just the light and shadow. However, that relates to the nature of the work and its intangible emotional space. Who? Me and the viewer on opposite sides of the glass, in a way the observer and the observed. When? When is kinda necessary, because of the pandemic and the proximity of the work to my dad's death. Where? This created world and in the story created by the video.
I think the edges are something I really need to tackle. On one hand they act at a form of scale for the piece moving the position of the setup to something smaller. They also act as a way to break up the world, identifying the materiality and reality of the space. I think doing this adds to an idea of temporality in the piece and brings in the human aspect, that they are, in fact, constructions made by hand with tape and paper. The edges really serve as a sign that the tape isn't hidden or trying to disappear as much as camouflaged into this world. The material and its visibility, or lack of visibility, is pushing this notion of constructing internal spaces out of reality. The reality and crudeness of the material transforming itself into this imagined safe-space. A safe space that turns out to be a much more literal depiction of a stressed out mind than what one would imagine a safe space too look like. The edges also show the very nature of these constructions. The reality and physical nature of the materials are at once anchoring the maker to this temporal space that is trying to be a shelter. A shelter that will continually collapse and disintegrate out side of a photograph.
I think this series, and specifically the idea of disturbingly fascinating relates to my continuing interest in the nature of existence. When I was starting to think about the work I was thinking a lot about what I wanted from my work as a whole. This brought me to a kinda dark realization. That I want to make the viewer feel something that isn't entirely pleasant, or more accurately disturbingly pleasant. This intention was the backbone of the photographs, it was where I started and continues to be my goal with the project. I suppose this makes the images connected to an intention to lash out, to insight a specific reaction in the viewer that in nature is a contradiction of pleasure and pain. While writing about this process I really questioned if there was a sadism in wanting someone to feel this way or if it was the opposite. That is, instead of wanting to cause the viewer pain am I trying to make someone feel an emotion I love experiencing as a viewer of art. I truly do feel like that feeling is what I admire in other art, in a lot of ways I see eliciting that experience as the thing that makes art great. In that way this emotion speaks to that yearning for connection in a time where I felt very alone. To give people an emotion thats very difficult to express with words. In a way to be understood through making a work that both forces and coaxes the viewer to understand me and this uncomfortable emotion.
When I was in second grade my family went on a trip to Italy. I only remember bits and pieces of the trip, but I remember the Florence Duomo. More specifically, I remember the ceiling. The ceiling of the Duomo is a fresco of the last judgement, depicting these happy people in a field along side people getting tortured by demons. I remember being fascinated by the piece. I felt like I knew I shouldn't look while also feeling like I couldn't look away, something about the images drew me in. It was this mix of feeling confused but also fascinated. To me that experience, and the others like it, are what disturbingly fascinating is.
(I continue to talk about this fresco in more depth in the entry on 2/14/22)
Narrative is something I think a lot about in connection to my work. I love stories, and especially audio books. I listened to a lot of books while making art in my early teens, and I continue to listen to audio books or play shows in the background when I make work now. I think story telling and world building is something that I really want to explore in my making process. For me the stop motion animation is my first step into working with narrative. It feels like a clear next step in the way I make and think about art.
The video, titled Excavation, shows a very clear series of events. That is, it's not a typical narrative as much as a series of events and progression. This is very similar to the way I thought about Internal Reflection. The whole way I went about creating that space was through a series of events and fractures of experience. However, that was entirely for me and not the audience. In my head I planed out this entire elaborate space as a map of progressing movement through each room. Whats different about the progression of Excavation is that it bring the viewer into the that story instead of just leaving that narrative as a personal element in the making process.
2/8/22 (Continuation of something i wrote on 12/27/21)
...... I have continually been fascinated by the work of the surrealists, and how those artists interpreted people outside of themselves. Specifically, how the "other" to his (the artist's) life and social standing fit into his fantasies.
For a long time that overarching topic has centered, for me, in an interest in Hans Bellmer and his dolls. Bellmer is a photographer whose work centers around a sexualized violence towards dolls he made, drew, and had models mimic. The work is disturbing and sadistic, but what makes it especially upsetting is the realization that the dolls are meant to be female children. The dolls quite literally show how he is dehumanizing children and girlhood to fit into multiple iterations of his fantasies. As a viewer of his work, and the work of the surrealists in general, the pervasive question arises of; can you separate the artist from their work? That is, can you morally appreciate the work of Hans Bellmer knowing that not only was he sexually attracted to children, but also that his work is specifically about pedophilia and sadism towards women and children. I think the kinda sick aspect of this is that I become more interested in the work because I know why he makes it, and I became more fascinated the more I learned about him and where the work comes from. I would even say that it’s the fact that he was evil that makes the photographs so compelling. With that reasoning there becomes an almost over simplistic form of viewership. That is, I wasn’t uplifting the artist or exonerating him because I liked the work, I liked the work because it made me hate the artist which in a weird way seems valid, to look at the photos to hate them. However, I don't think I ever actually viewed Bellmer's art it that way. Whats truly interesting about Bellmer is that, to me, he isn't particularly interesting as an individual artist as much as a part of the surrealist movement. That is, the fact that he had an audience, and he was accepted into and admired by the serialist movement shows a larger problem with surrealism that goes into Freud, literature, and the lacking idea of child abuse. In some ways that switches the conversation away from Bellmer and to the doll. The doll speaks to that issue of the photographs being accepted by the public showcasing a larger social issues that go beyond Bellmer as an individual, speaking to the doll as a symbol of what this narcissistic male viewpoint does to a venerable social group, girls.
In some ways when I was making Internal Reflection I was thinking about this concept... blending the maker (me) and subject (the photographs) to be one in the same. In so doing, focussing entirely on the viewer, subject relationship. That in this series I am both the maker and the doll making the viewer the soul predator. This idea makes me think of other performance art and also just the idea of muse and what happens when artist and muse are merged.
Thinking about the work from a social context seems to solve that separating the artist and the art problem, and i generally feel like that is the way to answer that question in a lot of cases. However, I also think it exonerates my self as the viewer which seems over simplistic and takes away any personal responsibility i have for simply enjoying the work. I think a good way to talk about that side is to bring in another element....true crime.
True crime is something I've been listening to recently and is a phenomenon that brings in a lot of questions about what is morally "ok" as entertainment. Seeing Bellmer's work after consuming true crime really makes me think of those stories. That is Bellmer's photos look like crime photos, which makes me see a lot more of the sick aspect of how violent his depictions of the doll truly are and i really just dont what to look at them..... So what about the sick aspect of true crime? I feel like there is a justification in listening when one relate to the victim instead of admireing the preditor, I emagin any female listening to those stories the way I do would feel a kinship with the victim over the purpotrator but then again does that justify or change the fact that it’s really more of a morbid curiosity? I mean morbid curiosity relates to the feelings im trying to reach in my thesis. There’s no escaping the fact its fascination and thrilling to looking into a monsters head. Kinda ironic given how I start my Excavation video. I do feel like exploring this morbid fascination is worth wile to explore as an idea and center point in and of itself instead of the simple result of horror.
The Vasari's Last Judgment painted on the inside of the Florence Duomo.
I remember looking at the fresco face to face after climbing the stairs of the cathedral in second grade. At that time I didn't want to look away from the images, I think I felt like I was supposed to look away but I didn't. I don't think I really knew what I was seeing, I knew there were naked people of course and I’m sure I somewhat understand the scenes were of torture. However, I was also very confused and wanted to understand the story that was being shown.
I don't really know how else to put it other than at that age seeing the Last Judgment was "too much" for me. I think there is a very distinct and often not talked about feeling when you see something that is in some way "too much." It’s seems like this fine line; that there is a point where its something you are comfortable with and enjoy viewing, then there is just scared and you want to look away. However, there is also this middle point between the things that an individual is used to seeing and things that are scary where one experiences both at once, and instead of wanting to look away they just want to stare. I am not actually sure how common that experience is but I know I experience it. This captivation in something that’s both alluring and often horrifying.
I have experienced this after seeing the Last Judgment, watching horror movies, in some other art, and in books. However, I think with those experiences I felt more upset, in a way i feel like they all fell more on the scary/horror side than the pleasurable side. accept for the Last Judgment, which gave me more pleasure than discomfort. I really feel like that experience was different and quite magical to me at the time because of the way I really got completely absorbed and lost into the painting. I really feel like that experience was particularly unique in comparison to other times where I “couldn’t look away” from something I should. For me creating that experience is what great art is, and it’s the feeling I want to create.