Review of Double Exposures

When Decoding Body for Encoding Image –

Review of Manuel Vason and 40 UK artists’ Double Exposures

Originally published in Chinese in Art Plus Taiwan, issue of Apr. 2015
by River Lin

Would you regard Double Exposures as a ‘book’ or an ‘art piece’? Is it a documentation of performance or performance itself? Is it representing body as archive or body as performative image? Questioning ways of viewing, to some degree, has become the way of approaching this work. Meanwhile, you might find out more intertextual questions from trying to answer some. No certainty here, it seems. At the beginning of 2015, with the vital and continuous involvement of Live Art Development Agency, Manuel Vsaon published Doubles Exposures after his first collaborative photography book Exposure in 2002. Taking ‘performance as photography - photography as performance’ as its subtitle, Double Exposures foregrounds collaboration between performance/performer and photography/photographer. It presents 40 diptychs co-created by performance artists and Vason with two proposals. One is ‘Reversing The Gaze’, 20 artists who have collaborated with Vason are invited to create a diptych presenting the collaborator’s art practice but one of images is made through working with Vason’s body. The another is ‘Double Images’, 20 artists who have not collaborated with Vason are invited to conceive a new performance to be presented as a diptych.  

I don’t doubt it’s a challenging and risky collaboration and I’ve imagined its possibility and impossibility if usually photographers stand ‘behind’ artists rather than ‘by side’ when documenting performance artists’ live work. The progress from conceiving, shooting to selecting images might inevitably touch the artistic subjectivity between photography/photographer and performance/performer. Who is the ‘director' and who the ‘artist’; who owns the copyright of ‘performance’ in art market, and how do we consider the relationship between performance art and photography? If bodily performance is an immaterial expression and hardly being categorised, how would we tell the liveness from its photography? Would live art ‘die’ in documents or archives? Or, how can photography as performance be ‘still alive’? Basically, artists in collaboration with Manuel Vason have become visual planners. In ‘Reversing The Gaze’, Franko B, Helena Goldwater, Nicola Canavan and Mat Fraser’s works, for instance, sets Vason’s body into a scene similar with their performance pieces, considering how to make the photograph with Vason’s body to dialogue with their art practice in a diptych. It is as if Vason has come the extension or contrast of the collaborator’s body. The exchange happens. They look at Vason from the camera as well as reviewing what their body has done and meant. In ‘Double Images’, the artist’s body are bound to perform for the camera. For example, you can see how Jamie Lewis, Rita Marcalo and Mad For Real play with the temporality of photography to construct the time, space and body as two-dimensional performance. Montage and the structure of diptych contains performative space in which artists capitalise on to realise and picture something could not be completed in live performance. Though a close-up, Martin O’Brien represents materials his body constantly works with. Stacy Makishi revisits her to-be-continued narrative by juxtaposing the participation of Vason’s body. Joshua Sofaer makes a dramatic happening captured by the eye of camera where the performance exists and disappears at the same time. Two proposals of Double Exposures lead to divers context and approach of artistic productions. It therefore choreographs your ways of seeing and provides room for readers to sense or imagine where the performer or photographer dances on. Yes, this is a photo book, taking photography as a point of departure but also arrival for artists to collaborate, experiment, resetting the place where the photographers and performers fall into. In terms of the performativity of documentized body, I would see Double Exposures as a photographic-specific performance. It reveals how artists decode body and image as ’the other’ to encode a piece of performance art. This work opens our eyes to gaze the discontinuity and materiality of body, and makes reading photo books more imaginatively.


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當他們解構身體— Manuel Vason與40位英國藝術家的Double Exposures


文/林人中 (原文刊載於 Art Plus 2015,4月號)


這是一本攝影書還是藝術品?是行為藝術的影像記錄,還是行為作品本身?這些圖像呈現的是被檔案化的身體,或身體作為文件式的展演?當我拿到這本Double Exposures,如何閱讀,並同時回應這些問題,成了一種以提問為前提且不確定其標準答案的觀看方式。


延續2002年第一本記錄行為表演的攝影作品Exposures,義大利攝影藝術家Manuel Vason十餘年後,在英國現場藝術推廣協會(Live Art Development Agency)的統籌策劃下,以「表演作為影像—攝影作為表演」(performance as photography - photography as performance)為書名副標,出版了Double Exposures,`一本強調藝術家如何在攝影與表演間合作(collaboration)的紙上展覽。收錄與英國行為表演藝術家們共同創作的40組圖像,每組影像皆以「雙連幅」(diptych)呈現,分為兩創作提案,第一「Reversing The Gaze」:曾與Vason合作過的藝術家,選擇其一件表演作品,並構思另一件以Vason的身體為表現物的攝影作品,兩件圖像並置為一件新作。第二「Double Images」:未曾與Vason合作過的藝術家,創作一件能以兩張照片記錄與呈現的表演。在第一項主題中,藝術家轉為扮演攝影師,而第二項裡,藝術家則偏向鏡頭裡的表演者。

這是一場冒險的合作,我能想像生產過程中的可能與不能:從發想討論、拍攝當下到挑選照片,便觸及了難以達致平等的權力問題,譬如誰是導演、誰是藝術家,事後被文件化的作品版權如何從屬,當它被放入藝術市場時。然而,我們又該如何看待行為藝術表演與及攝影之間的關係?一般情況下,攝影師扮演記錄者的角色,他位於表演藝術家以及作品的「後面」,而不是「旁邊」。而作為非物質性藝術表現並判離既有藝術品框架的行為表演,在影像檔案產出之後,那原本乍現於當下及現場的作品,又如何仍成立於它的再現文件?在此同時,當身體藝術的不可複製性與攝影影像其凝固、切斷特定時空的本質相遇,作為「live art」藝術家,其藝術在謝幕之後,該文件裡的表演是否「死去」?換句話說,攝影的表演如何「still alive」?


對讀者來說,Vason的兩項提案雖導致同一結果:產出雙連幅攝影,但我想像,對藝術家來說脈絡卻大有不同。譬如變成視覺規劃師/攝影師的第一組藝術家Franko B、Helena Goldwater、Nicola Canavan與Mat Fraser等的作品,他們佈置出並將Vason放在與自己原作類似的時空場景,於是考慮更多的是,如何從自己的作品裡延展出另一支身體表演,讓Vason變成自己或其延伸物或對立面,讓兩張圖像產生對話。他們用鏡頭看Vason,同時檢視原本位於鏡頭下的自己,其產生出的新圖像,較像是「藝術家在場」的結果。第二組藝術家面臨的情境則偏向為,如何將自己的身體與表演「服務」於鏡頭之中,並以此為前提進行創作。譬如Jemie Lewis、Rita Marcola與Mad For Real,像是將時間前後(before/after)或鏡頭的反面作為定義身體與空間的方式,產出了為二維平面表演的作品,反過來說,較像是「攝影師在場」的成果。整體來說,「雙連幅」在這本書中讓攝影形成一種表演的空間與條件,供藝術家利用兩件照片玩弄敘事,運用攝影捕捉原本自己的現場表演裡無法滿足的畫面與事物。譬如Martin O’Brien,將他表演中最重要的兩項元素:黏液與裸體分置為兩件特寫圖像;或Stacy Makishi,讓Vason成為自己未完待續的身體,並重新改寫自己的原作,組成一組關於新的死亡敘事;或Joshua Sofaer,則利用雙連幅的優勢捕捉砸雞蛋事件發生當下的兩端時空讓現場表演存在/消失於攝影的瞬間。


回到一開始的問題,我會說,這是一本攝影書。這本書讓攝影者與被攝影者共享並重新商榷藝術家的身份,並以攝影作為表演的起點與終點所進行的合作與實驗。關於現場表演的身體被文件後,行為藝術與其攝影之間的關係,在此,我以為Double Exposures中的表演是影像限域的(photographic-specific performance)。但與其說這些照片是藝術家為攝影創作的表演,不如說這是藝術家透過多重他者:鏡頭、Vason的身體、自己在照片中的身體,重新檢視、想像、定義自己身體與藝術脈絡的過程。片斷且不連續性的身體,在這場攝影實驗中,被強調出來,包括攝影敘事的表演性。一開始,我原本焦慮於身體的現場性消失於影像中,但逐漸我意識到,這本作品打一開始,就把這個焦慮拋在腦後,在影像之前,藝術家的身體已然變成「編碼與解碼」(encode/decode)的那雙眼睛,將物質性的身體轉化成更加物質性與想像性的身體。

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Art Plus Taiwan : http://goo.gl/OyVYWa

Double Exposures : http://www.double-exposures.com/

Manuel Vason : http://www.manuelvason.com/ Live Art Development Agency : http://www.thisisliveart.co.uk/
photography courtesy of  Double Exposures