Visualise yourself as a house. Initially, you may think of houses you have lived in, the houses you shared with your parents and siblings. All say something about you and your background but not you as a house. What about the houses you have lived in as an adult – these say more about you and your personality but it is still not you as a house.
Houses I have lived in.
What if you could live in any house? Which house would you choose? What would it be like? Think about what your choice says about you. I would probably choose a house with few if any, external windows but there would be a light-filled internal courtyard. But still, I do not think this is me as a house.
What about the house as a metaphor for psychoanalysis? Why choose this route as this approach is a methodology to identify underlying neurosis? It is a way to approach things that you may be subconsciously aware of about yourself but of which you are not consciously aware. This could be a valid tool, but I felt this was not going to assist me in representing `me as a house’.
To describe `me as a house’, what I want to do is use our shared knowledge of houses as a vocabulary to describe me; to create a non-traditional portrait of a person in a digital age.
If We Were Houses is a forthcoming exhibition about the built dwelling as a metaphor for self.
In late 2017, I attended a talk by artist Helen Scalway who put forward the following proposal, open to all attending the meeting.
`A metaphor for self’, resonated with other work I was undertaking and offered an interesting direction in which to take the work. It also provided the opportunity to exhibit with a group who were investigating the representation of self in a non-traditional way. The exhibition title became `If We Were Houses’.
The built dwelling or built structure as a metaphor for the self – Helen Scalway
What is the potential in the idea of the built dwelling or built structure as a metaphor for the self? In western culture, the metaphor of the house to evoke the human psyche has been persistent, ever since the psychologist C. G. Jung suggested it in the early twentieth century. For me as a visual artist, it has meant exploring those aspects of built structure which are complex, overlapping and ambiguous: there may be facades, but behind these are all kinds of different rooms, stairs and corridors, ways around and through, areas revealed and areas concealed. There is always the potential for endlessly more.
I would like to open this up as a means of portraiture which has the potential to go far beyond the literal depiction of a person or group of people, revealing as such depictions can be. Having made work over the last two years on this theme of a built structure as a metaphor for the self, I have come to understand that there could be a means here of understanding more about a self, and further than this, not just oneself in isolation. Because, if we put different people’s visual explorations of the theme into physical proximity, we might see further into the different kinds of baggage – cultural and personal – we are bringing together when we make a new acquaintance, or meet a workmate, or an old friend, a stranger or a spouse. We might see a little further into some of the complexities – both for positive and sometimes difficult outcomes – within such relationships.
We constantly create incidental portraits of ourselves, images left in our environment and in the memories of others. Life is a series of self-presentation, and each presentation helps to develop a 3-dimensional sense of an individual.
Yet individuals are much more than 3-dimensional. They move through time, through different doors to different contexts, to changing expectations, and it is in this that we present the complexity, the multiplicity, of self.
The crenelations of our mind hold memories that present and re-present changing recollections of ourselves. Thoughts flow and doors impose a structure on our access to what is there, to what was there, and to the possibilities of what might lie beyond.
Participant observation is the only option for a self-portrait and the subsequent risk of loss of objectivity has to be considered. Using multiple images and considering multiple perspectives has the potential to address elements of the question of objectivity.
Is a sense of discomfort when considering elements of your presented self indicative of good observation? The process of learning about yourself can often be uncomfortable. In this work, I seek the uncanny valleys, those uncomfortable places, boundaries that question the nature of reality. Ultimately any presentation is a presentation of what you see and any value is in what others see.
Gaps in walls controlled by doors.
Safe place illusions.
Groyne posts, waveworn, and the April sunshine draws me back to the beach and my photographic odyssey for 2018 as I photograph the ever-changing groyne post tops of the groyne field of Bexhill beach.
I am distracted by the rust patterns – I think that I may be developing a new addiction.
Groyne posts expose rusty remnants and the soft worn quality of the metal and the sharp talon-like qualities of shadows. The saltwater oxidises the metal, the oxide stains the wood and slowly bonds the metal object to the wood. The de-laminating ferrule creates a landscape of red rust and yellow lichen.
Waveworn documents weathering and erosion on the Sussex coast through the medium of film and still photography, catalogued by location and date to build up a complete and beautiful archive of change over the decades. Waveworn explores pressing issues of environmental instability, but also timeless human themes of change, impermanence and desire for (the illusion of) control.
An interview with Alex Leith for `Viva Lewes’ (March 2018 edition)
And it is always good to get feedback … please Tweet @Clifffart if you visit the exhibition.