Performing Pictures

The magician-as-artist stands apart from the magician-as-trickster inasmuch as the former’s intention to deceive is plainly acknowledged beforehand, and conclusively reaffirmed in hindsight

Discovered during a media-archeological investigation into optical illusions, trick photography, and discarded memorabilia, the photo-multigraph technique opened the door to an enchanted world of cloned appearances orbiting in a self-reflective solar system. Shapeshifting into our preferred artistic medium, this turn-of-the-century photographic technique becomes the video-multigraph. It is bizarrely noteworthy that self-isolation would become not only the subject of the piece, but also – due to the unforeseen spread of a recently mutated virus – the prevailing circumstances under which the work was to be completed. In Verfünfungseffekt, we use the medium of video to create a kaleidoscopic portrait-in-motion where the perspective-shifting shards of ego are recorded in a synchronized performance of solipsist intersubjectivity. The video-multigraph allows for the compositing of tiny offsets in time-shifting delays applied to one, or several, of the mirrored selves – shattering the cloned perfection, as well as the conformity, of the multiple presences. This optical illusion necessitates reflection on how media alters our perceptions of time and space; it thereby arouses wonder about our place in existence.

Keywords: Photo-multigraph, fivefold-portrait, mirror photography, video-multigraph, crisis of presence

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...

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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