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Sidetrack 2010
As Narcissus gazed at himself in a pool of his reflection, he became forlorn, lovesick over his own image.   Intense self-focus might be a characteristic that many artists, inevitably, through the nature of the job description, share with Narcissus.  We are all egomaniacs, right?  The artist’s use of their own body seems always to put narcissism front and center, although it actually begins to veer over into the different but inextricable realm of personal risk.  Serving up one’s image in the employ of a concept involves an element of sacrifice, even corporeal fear.  While any work may reveal an artist’s nature or inner secrets and thereby be a source of risk and or courage, the use of one’s body automatically involves a partial loss of control of one’s physicality, even if the artist is purportedly controlling the reading.  The act of seeking attention and simultaneously endangering one’s physical self can be seen nightly on most reality shows, reminding us of the fine line between courage and stupidity.  And in that particular genre, never letting us forget the potent dash of desperation.  The assumed difference between the reality show performer and the artist is, of course, intent.  But how much is the artist’s self-focused necessity and how much is a gift of sacrifice?  Maybe the two merge in a kind of conceptual martyrdom.  Martyrdom is somehow never able to shake off the self, regardless of its meaning which is predicated on selflessness, leaving the very act as a perpetual irony shrouded in suspicion.  This seems an artist’s fate, the dialectical bind that we tacitly join whenever we throw ourselves out to be judged, criticized, understood and appreciated.  Which is a little closer to masochism than narcissism, really.

These off hand, sidetrack, outtake images are, in a way, a recording of this raveled process, this bind.  While attempting to bring critical inquiry to a social issue, I saw the spectacle of what I was making.  Not only in appropriating and reconstructing a coded familiar language but in my own struggle in recreating this very specific language and marking its critical component with my own presence.  Acting not as a self but as a representation of the artist, a pithy placeholder to transform an object to a subject.  My own image becomes a trope in service to a concept that demands renouncing any direct autobiographical information for a symbol.  And the portrait of that symbol is the cliché of our communication, effectively masking my own story, becoming an anti-self portrait of sorts, which is antithetical to display.  The only clue to the actual self is the subject matter I am choosing to put under the white-hot light and deconstruct.  With this clue the self cannot be completely extricated, which is exactly why the subject can emerge and take its critical place.  The ‘behind the scenes’ snaps expose a flourish of self-subsumation, with that glimmer of the martyr’s irony, through the meeting of the reconstructed image and its background of reality. 

Quoting past feminists, I’ve tried to break down the pervasive language of advertising and female representation in contemporary society through a skewed reconstruction of that very language.  Recording that reconstruction, dismantles it.  The circularity of the entire enterprise is obvious when we see a colorfully wrought fiction deep within its studio environment, the ghost of the authoritative camera on the scene, captured by another camera, subjects torn out of their roles in infectious laughter or caught looking squarely into the interloping lens, the jeweled glow of a composed recital folded into a cocoon of utilitarian mechanics. Revealing the tools and mechanisms used to reprise these myths, hints at our inability to ply ourselves from the language even in the midst of breaking it down.  While earnestly building a complex critique, I was simultaneously watching my own mechanizations and fascinated by their implications.  Aware of the constant contradiction, I moved forward and took notes.  And it is this contradiction which gets acutely back to the heart of the critique; getting even closer to our actual experience of these images in the everyday, which is often clouded in a grey area of irreconcilability, desire and anger, love and hate.

So, maybe this record, my notes from the side, lifts the veil not only of the artist, but of the whole undertaking and its purpose in the first place; the essence of these images being a hazy transparency which runs right back around to the beginning and shines the light brighter.

Buy "Sidetrack" book by Heather Bennett 2010.