Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ze critique

A couple of months ago I had an online photo exhibition.
A couple of days ago a friend of mine was kind enough to spare a few moments to give me feedback, an effort (hopefully a pleasant one) for which I thank him again.

Here goes:

"C.P.'s recent online exhibition featuring a series of candid autobiographical pictures, some real, some adulterated is both whimsical, erotic, disturbing and thought provoking. Her exhibition, "How to win a guy with a few cheap shots" is a superficial juxtaposition of the differences between female archetypes: the sensible, demure, more conservative 'Good Girl' and the more reckless, rebellious and feisty 'Bad girl'.

However, her attempt to create these diametric oppositions only serves to instruct the viewer to examine more minutely the degree of interlinkage between them as that artist cleverly tries to use this constructed artifice to present two quite different stories. This elaborate artifice, albeit with a scarcely believable denouement in which both girl archetypes emerge more or less on on equal terms, should not disguise the deeper messages the artist is conveying. This photographic ingenué wants us not to accept the stark dichotomy she is portraying, but to uncover a more multi-faceted and less assured subject; that is the photographer herself and the chimeric range of her emotional responses.

The dissonance and the delight between the parody of good and bad images is clearly evident, but it is easier to represent this visually, than to ascribe meaning to inherently cognitive processes. In a sense, this collection of autobiographical 'renderings' is the dialogue of a dystonic (unsettling) voice and euthymic (reassuring) voice competing on a visual landscape for supremacy and ascendancy but with neither voice sure of where the median is.

Bad is not all bad, Good is not all good. Bad things happen to the Good. Good things happen to the Bad. How can this be accounted for? is one rhetoric question this collection provokes However in such a joust, for either to 'emerge victorious' would seem a pyrrhic hope. Rather, the exhibition represents an attempt by the artist to coalesce herself with the many discordant and divergent images, messages and impulses our hegemonic culture attempts to inculcate. In fact, what she is commenting upon with such clarity and force is the paradox of gender identities, a modern malady which has the ability to confuse, bewilder and disorient many men and women amid a fog of familial imperatives and a gale of societal expectations.

What should women expect? What do men want? Of course, there are individual answers, but even these are not readily palatable ones unless we are used to arterial honesty, complete transparency, and a mountain of personal integrity. At times the yearning for simpler times when polar opposites were a useful explanatory tool but at others th artist recognizes that there is a need for more nuanced understandings in order to enhance navigability of complex gender and sexual identity representation.

The dichotomy she creates is sanguine, but ultimately disinguous. The overtly sexual pictures hint at a willfully 'risque' side which some men find alluring, whilst the more chaste and reserved photographs appeal to notions of gentility and respectability, which appeals to others. The bondage photo, apart from being elegiacally beautiful, provides an illustration of the emotional wounds writ large on the body.

Among the pictures, there are threads of great sadness but also of considerable joy but none is as straightforward as it would seem. It is the layering of meaning which is the stand-out feature of her work. It is the attempt at reconcilement of difference into one multi-faceted whole which is the key point for this reviewer. We are infinitely complex beings, but to the Good and the Bad Girls I would say this: You can have both, because you at different times manifest as one and the same. And it would do well to remind women of this salutary point: you are loved as much for your fragilities and foibles, as you are for your fearlessness and fabulousness."

Trevor L.

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