My work is based on the theme of performance, particularly focusing on the relationship between the actor and the character that they play; the emotional relationship between performer and their temporary persona. The characters are analysed based on an observation of the external emotions of the actor. By capturing the performer’s facial expressions during the dramatic process, which is done through photographing at their rehearsals and practices, I am investigating the cross over of the boundary between their real emotions and those that they stage, and the imaginary mask that the actor wears during performance.
Diderot suggested that the actor’s real feelings and those performed are completely different, and that their emotions must be fictitious. He also believed that an emotion that is controlled, as they are in performance, is not an emotion but a pretense. The spectator is convinced by the performer reproducing the external signs of an emotion accurately. “The actor is, however, not his character; he pretends to be and does this so well that you mistake him for his character. The illusion is yours alone” (Diderot).
In my work I also think about the act of photographing acting in general and the relationship between the performance and the documentary of it; how this archiving has been seen to capture a different thing from that seen when viewing the performance, and I look at what is actually shown through isolating the visual and focusing on the details revealed through this.
Auslander implied that there are two types of the photographing of performance, the theatrical and the documentary. The documentary is that which records a performance that stands in its own right for a live audience; the theatrical is that which photographs a performance which was solely in intended to be captured in this way, and thus the image is the main space in which the performance occurs, which may be known as performance art.
My work is based on the documenting of existing performance rather than performing purely for the camera. By turning it into purely visual imagery the performance may be seen in a totally new way that is more focused on the body language and silent emotion rather than the script. In this way the performance has a dual existence, the viewing of the live action and the viewing of the photograph that follows. Phelan stated that when photographed, performance becomes “something other than performance”, my work investigates this ‘other’ existence that becomes of the photographed actor once recorded.
The artists I’ve looked at so far are all based around performance, character, or portraiture that links to emotion. Such as Wendy McMurdo, whose work based on the doppelganger has a dramatic style and deals with the second self. Heeseung Chung’s work titled ‘persona’ also relates closely to the themes explored in my work as it explores actor and character emotion. Also the work of Ray Kachatorian, Howard Schatz and Lisa Barnard.