ISM – Self portraits musing

So I’d initially set out on this journey having a fairly resolute idea of the pictures that I wanted to go into my ‘exhibition’. There were Nan Goldin and Tracey Emin, Ana Mendieta’s video work, Robert Mapplethorpe and then David Bailey for his hard and unrelenting stare.

And then it started to niggle me. I don’t have permission to use these artworks in a print format. I know that there are arguments about ‘fair use’ and educational use and that’s all well and good. *Legally* I could use them. However it just didn’t sit right. I wanted to do a real exploration into the subject and perhaps discover something new.

Of course, as it always happens, the project grows in my head. Wouldn’t this be cool if… people could buy the book and my essays. If it was an ‘artists book’ (more about that below). Wouldn’t this be cool if… we could pull this together into an exhibition. I like to dream. And I like to dream big. Even if it doesn’t go anywhere it’s always great fun to dream. So instead I’ve been considering scouting out some relative unknowns – although I have to admit, I will still be contacting the ‘big names’ to find out if I could potentially use their images in the book.

So about this artist book idea, that’s an interesting proposal to me. Artists have always made books of their work (well, in the last hundred years or so anyway) and so the artist book is a medium with history. It’s interesting. But can a curator make an artist book? Is that what my book would be? Perhaps it would be a curators book. Doesn’t sound as fancy as artists book, does it? It’s the same idea on the whole though.

I’m hoping to reach out over the next few months to artists who have shot self portraits and see if they might be interested in coming together in this project. Its not going to make them any money, but if the project comes together over the next year and something interesting comes out of it, maybe there’s a group exhibition in there too. Certainly I have access to the space at Oxford Brookes – I could submit a proposal for an exhibition and we could go out and crowdsource the funding.

It’s a bit of a strange way round to doing things. Conceiving the catalogue first and then potentially if it works looking at an exhibition but I don’t think it’s impossible. And it would certainly start to get my name out there as a writer, book producer and curator.

These are just ideas at the moment, nothing is set in stone. I have a few people in mind I want to approach and I’m hoping that they’ll say yet. But we shall see. Ultimately though, I need to write two essays on a body of photographs. I mustn’t lose sight of the goal.

But the goal is coming along nicely and I’m starting to get my teeth into some serious research. Today I’m attending a panel of six papers on the subject of Exhibition Cases as Experimental Spaces. It’s been rich with source material and ideas and I plan to draw huge inspiration from Richard Hamilton’s catalogue designs for the ICA. The idea that a political message can be put across in a catalogue is an interesting one. Thursday I saw a series of papers on Feminist Futures in Art Practice, Theory and History which also ties in nicely to what I’m doing. I believe that there are particularly discourses around the way that ‘men’ and ‘women’ represent themselves through photographic self portraiture – now more than ever with the rise of the camera phone selfie. And on top of that yesterday was a whole day on the subject of Expanded Photography where various academics and artists examined what photographers have done in the past that is outside the box, as it were.

I hope to bring all these of these aspects together in my exhibition catalogue project, very much using it as an experimental space for the curation of photography. I’m hoping it will be really interesting, not just to me and my tutors but perhaps to a wider audience.

And of course if you’d like to nominate an artist who has worked with self portraiture, please don’t hesitate to let me know.