More Than a Portrait

Framing the Photograph as Sculpture and Video Animation

Doi: https://doi.org/10.47659/m5.048.art

This essay traces the resurrection of the fotoescultura, a three-dimensional photographic portrait popular in rural Mexico in the early 20th century, as interpreted in recent works by Performing Pictures, a contemporary Swedish artist duo. The early fotoesculturas were an augmented form of portraiture, commissioned by family members who supplied photographs that artisans in Mexico City converted into framed sculptural portraits for display on family altars. We compare these »traditional« photographic objects with “new” digital forms of video animation on screen and in the public space that characterize Performing Pictures work, and explore how the fotoescultura inspired new incarnations of their series Men that Fall. At the intersection between the material aspects of a “traditional” vernacular art form and “new” media art, we identify a photographic aesthetic that shifts from seeing and perceiving to physical engagement, and discuss how the frame and its parergon augment the photographic gaze. The essay is accompanied by photos and video stills from Performing Pictures’ film poem Dreaming the Memories of Now (2018), depicting their work with the fotoesculturas.

This essay traces the resurrection of the fotoescultura, a three-dimensional photographic portrait popular in rural Mexico in the early 20th century, as interpreted in recent works by Performing Pictures, a contemporary Swedish artist duo. The early fotoesculturas were an augmented form of portraiture, commissioned by family members who supplied photographs that artisans in Mexico City converted into framed sculptural portraits for display on family altars. We compare these »traditional« photographic objects with “new” digital forms of video animation on screen and in the public space that characterize Performing Pictures work, and explore how the fotoescultura inspired new incarnations of their series Men that Fall. At the intersection between the material aspects of a “traditional” vernacular art form and “new” media art, we identify a photographic aesthetic that shifts from seeing and perceiving to physical engagement, and discuss how the frame and its parergon augment the photographic gaze. The essay is accompanied by photos and video stills from Performing Pictures’ film poem Dreaming the Memories of Now (2018), depicting their work with the fotoesculturas.

This essay traces the resurrection of the fotoescultura, a three-dimensional photographic portrait popular in rural Mexico in the early 20th century, as interpreted in recent works by Performing Pictures, a contemporary Swedish artist duo. The early fotoesculturas were an augmented form of portraiture, commissioned by family members who supplied photographs that artisans in Mexico City converted into framed sculptural portraits for display on family altars. We compare these »traditional« photographic objects with “new” digital forms of video animation on screen and in the public space that characterize Performing Pictures work, and explore how the fotoescultura inspired new incarnations of their series Men that Fall. At the intersection between the material aspects of a “traditional” vernacular art form and “new” media art, we identify a photographic aesthetic that shifts from seeing and perceiving to physical engagement, and discuss how the frame and its parergon augment the photographic gaze. The essay is accompanied by photos and video stills from Performing Pictures’ film poem Dreaming the Memories of Now (2018), depicting their work with the fotoesculturas.

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All the more shall this become a memory of the time you and your mother stood on a countryside road amid the agave fields and with the mountain range of Oaxaca in the background on one of countless journeys...
Reading Time: 20 minutes
Reading Time: 20 minutes
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