Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Gallery interaction: Shadow Portraits

As a visual artist, rather than an film-maker or photographer, I designed an interaction which brought drawing to the exhibition - but a form of multiple-image capture which could mimic the dynamics of a moving portrait. The idea was to draw round sharp shadows of the subject, in a series of poses and/or a restless moving line of shapes in response to how we are never still.

Each shadow portrait was a truly collaborative affair: the choice and number of poses, colour, as well as the number of people, or props in the portrait, were art-directed by the subjects themselves. Inevitably the variety was limitless: a complete family portrait with the shadows nested like matryoshka dolls; a child holding a beloved toy bear; a precariously balanced homage to Patti Smith (who had performed in the theatre the night before). What was intriguing was how individual choice could create such a highly personal record, despite the fact that we were only working with silhouettes.

The large-scale of the works, as well as the special light conditions needed to create the portraits, meant that they were very difficult to photograph. However, the images above give a small sense of what we achieved.

Talking to visitors about the exhibition itself, I was very struck by how many were already on their second or third visit (the show only opened a week ago). There was great enthusiasm for the variety of work - everyone seemed to have completely different favourites. Such is the ubiquity of moving image in our everyday lives that only one person I spoke to raised the subject of whether a filmed portrait can be seen as art in the same way as a painted portrait.