Tuesday, December 07, 2010

collaboration in progress... part 3

"Apple"  by Marta Shumylo                                       "25 weeks" by Sonja Thomsen
Along with the "home/away" series of diptychs, Marta and I have each been independently creating a short series of images & video titled "waiting." I found out I was pregnant with my first child during our year long collaboration. Aware of Marta's interest in documenting rotting fruit, I thought it fitting to document my growing belly. I was interested in Marta's process of decay and her photographic observations. They were the antithesis to the new life developing inside me.  "Waiting" for me became about a conversation about time as well as transition. Marta's rotting ripe fruit seen with such clarity and sensitivity and my own fertility documented weekly with a crude Polaroid are paired in the exhibition to speak to the ephemerality of life's cycles.

S:  I think anticipation was something both of us were grappling with while making photographs for the "waiting" series.  How do you think your perceptions of time and anticipation affected your series documenting rotting fruit? How did you select this subject?

M: I have always been interested in looking at the way everything ages and deteriorates. The beginning of the Rotten Fruit series was when I opened my fridge one day and saw a fruit that was slightly covered by mold. Instead of being disgusted I was amazed by the effect that time had on it. I started photographing immediately in spring of 2009. The photographs were interesting but I knew there was more to pursue in the series. I was very excited to continue working on the project for the show at Marwen during the summer/fall of 2010. The second time around growing the mold was an unanticipated challenge. I had to learn more about the climate and science of rotting the fruit. Seasonal weather affected my process and at times it was frustrating to see how some of the fruit would not rot the way I anticipated. 
Time played such a big role in this series. The process forced me to be more patient and just wait for decay to happen. It took much longer and more attempts than I anticipated and very often the lack of control and not knowing if the result would turn out interesting was overwhelming. 
I'm curious about your use of both still and moving image with your pregnancy documentation. Why did you use both media?

S: Hearing your child's heartbeat for the first time is an incredibly surreal experience. You don't look pregnant, you don't really feel pregnant (just ill) and yet you go to the doctor's office and there inside of you is another being's heart pounding away. I knew I wanted to record this sound before I went into the office. I needed a record/a reminder that it was really happening.  I did not anticipate being interested in the video footage at all - it was a means to record the sound. After a few visits I was fascinated in how the curvature of my belly was becoming more and more apparent in each video. In the final video piece the grid creates an interesting visual play with the Polaroid stills and the sound of the heartbeat is a powerful element that a viewer can personally experience if they engage with the piece and put on the headphones.  I love how the blending heartbeats create this heightened sense of anticipation to the first person perspective of the growing belly.  It is a little Edgar Alan Poe added suspense.
My final question for you is about this entire process (and the video that tries to speak to our long process).  What have you learned about yourself as an artist and the artistic process through this collaboration? Does our video bear witness to any of those things you have learned?

M:  As an artist, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Through our problem solving and teaching ourselves new techniques I have been empowered with a new confidence in my own art making. I was not used to working in series for a show until this collaboration and it was interesting for me to challenge myself in such way.
Taking pictures is only a little part of the process when preparing an exhibition. Developing ideas through writing and discussion, creating work prints, proofing for color, and re-shooting are now crucial to my process. Editing has been a big part of this collaboration and I learned that what you refrain from putting in is just as important as what you put in.
Even though a year of working together is impossible to portray in a eleven minute video, I think it is an interesting addition that reflects on our time invested in art making.

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