Sunday, 10 August 2008

lady with cat + authenticity + autobiography

from flickr

if i told you this was my nan, you'd believe me, right? seems a contemporary colour photograph, roughly the right age to be my nan, very fondly looking at these cats in her lap. my dissertation research into roland barthes in camera lucida looked at how barthes was struggling to 'see' his mother in any of the photos he has of her following her death, even if in fact, visibly the woman in the photograph was her, he couldn't connect the frozen snapshot of time of, for example, the presented facial expression,disposition,context,her as a child- its didn't seem to be really her to him. now taking this further, in how by, for example, verbally narrating, we bring a picture from the past into real time. or even by how putting it in a frame on the mantelpiece gives it a status and thus implied personal connection if on my mantelpiece. i draw connections here to the tratchenberg family slide show players who create narratives of strangers lives depicted through slides, in performing songs about car boot found images (my previous post here.) who are these people? those lost treasured moments of the past 'rekindled' inauthentically momentarily in the present?

i have also been looking through old photos of my blood father who passed away recently. we had a selection of them out at his wake from different points in his life to connect to all those people present from across his life, start conversations, recount memories. many of these photos i'd not seen before. there's two in particular, one of him aged about 6 months in a christening gown i think in 1928,with his older brother and sister, pretty standard british photo of that time so fairly non-descript, could be any baby, but it isn't as i've been told otherwise. i'm finding it hard not to look at it, it represents him at the start of his life. the other photo is of him as an artist in his studio in the 60s taking a photo of himself in a mirror surrounded by his ceramics and paintings.this photograph i would imagine was how barthes felt looking at his mother in an age he also didn't know her, a sense of awe and loss but also a sense of wonderment about that time in their life, a time that may well remain unknown.for me, a sense of the artistic person i wish i had known, or how much does this photo actually represent that as my father would think? all so subjective, the "that-has-been," as camera lucida discusses at great length. photos in light of these circumstances of a life passing for me are proving quite challenging to view- and has made me consider the level of honesty i actually want to share so publicly. so when doug said during the july scratch performance, have out a photograph of me and my nan to set the scene, due to that scene developing in ways away from a direct autobiography with the addition of the granddad section, i'm not sure i want to have my pictorally real nan. however, this begs the question then, am i theatricalising my work or am i merely embellishing it like storytellers do?

i was thinking about spalding grays life as a performance and the ideas surrounding autobiography- how truthful am i being already and am i to continue to be? how much am i inventing and continuing to invent? i have a suitcase of cat related object and image possibilities i am collating and weeding out bit by bit, many based on nanny's own tastes but are some things too hyper real, too inauthentic? is it possible to be making a point about this? if i pulled out a photo album with the lady with cats at the top of this post in, and then talked about her, the natural response would be its her. however, if i pulled the image out of a lady smiling and clearly loving her cats, from a pile of old photos in a rubber band and then framed it and placed it in front of the audience to tell the story would they still think she was my nan? or could it be perceived that i wanted this to be my nan? or that this was how i saw her?
am i making a different but good point about photography here, alongside the others i am employing in erasing the image, not fixing it , temporal obscura image?

i inherited a few lovely items when nanny passed away, a beautiful lamp and old electric heater. nanny had mixed taste and a few choice cat items in amongst her living breathing pussies, including a cat calendar, but also some what i would term very tacky, chintzy ornaments. so the items i am collating seem plausible to the autobiography.

is the cat lady photo or one like it another photographic twist for the MA show? i think i will try a photo in thursday's scratch.

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