The Scumbag exhibition is an installation of hand-stiched felt letters and a series of large format colour photographs, which reflect upon childhood perceptions of family trauma.
This exhibition marks a transition from the documentary and figurative style that has characterized my photographic practice to a new approach, which engages with the body in relation to objects, language and the inhabiting of space. There has been a shift from depicting the presence of the physical body to a distinctive absence. In its place, the body is suggested and implied by the representation of its inner world.
In my previous exhibitions I focused on bodies in transition; bodies in states of pregnancy, adolescence, overweight, aging, illness and gender transitioning, when normative boundaries were disrupted. My works probed cultural taboos and exposed the body in various states of abjection. The images reflected upon the frailty and physicality of the human body; what it means to inhabit a human body; and to be the object of representation of subjects that are often rendered invisible and hidden from view.
The experience of working with people who revealed private aspects of themselves to me and to a wider audience, engendered moments of shared intimacy, emotional intensity and commonality between the subjects, the spectators and me. These were aesthetic and affective encounters and have influenced and changed my artistic processes. In this exhibition I aim to create the effect of intimacy by building a narrative through feelings and language that appear in both the present and the past, in an undefined place and time.
Scumbag embodies the language of emotional trauma and the inhabiting of domestic spaces. In its textual form, it is a collection of hand-stiched coloured felt alphabet letters that evoke a dialogue with childhood, materila\ity, and the sensations of touching and feeling. Pinned to walls in groups of phrases, where innermost thoughts are laid bare, they inscribe linguistically and visually, intimate aspects of identity that often remain shamefully and fearfully concealed 'behind closed doors'.
Scumbag, therefore, attempts to negotiate the disjunction between the public and private persona, as it is realised by the interior spaces of emotions and the exterior places of habitation. In this process of negotiating a sense of self through place, the body, both as a presence and an absence, remains central.
The exhibition is completed by a series of large colour photographs which reveal the placement of the works and phrases in the landscape of an anonymous suburban housing estate. The presence of the photographer at the site and the camera's "insistent gaze of absence, of testimony" (1) provides the evidence, acting as a witness to the imagined events.
The images further play with notions of identiy, creating a contested space between the implicit presence of a speaker and the absence of an identifiable person with whom to connect the voices. Neither age nor gender is identified, as there is no visible human being to project the words onto. There remains however, a strong sense of an embodied subject who inhabits the space with his/her own trumatic memories.
Scumbag represents a continued desire to visualise the unspoken and the unseen. Rather than using photographic representations of the body, it forges a new language of representation to register the experience of emotionally charged memories and the way "trauma is mediated to us in terms of embodied perception" (2).
My aim is to explore the capacity of art to engage the viewer in affective encounters that tread a fine line between the verbal and the visceral, the intimate and the mutual, the public and the private.
(1) Buci-Glucksmann, C., Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger: Images of Absence in the Inner Space of Painting, in Inside the Visible: an Elliptical Traverse of 20th Centruy Art in, of, and from the Feminine. C.M. de Zegher, Editor. 1996, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. p.281
(2) Bennett, J., Art, Affect, and the "Bad Death": Stragies for Communicating the Sense Memory of Loss. Signs, 2002. 28(1): p. 333-351