MATHILDE AGIUS and RETO SCHMID
9/11/2013 – 14/12/2013
at VAN HORBOURG, Zurich
Text by Tenzing Barshee
For the project «Daze Daze» Mathilde Agius and Reto Schmid staged friends and acquaintances in fictionalized settings. They make use of a variety of visual codes part of a collective image repertoire ranging from film aesthetics to fashion photography. Each portrait is taken in the nude which might seem like their most obvious gesture at first but then reveals itself as a means to an end. The specific contexts in which they placed these naked bodies render the apparent realness into a state of crude artificiality. In this way the credibility of both states is called into question, as well as each protagonist’s role and the medium of portrait itself. The artists deliberately worked with non-professional models that showed very personal and intuitive reactions to their given setting, as well as a reflexive/reactive struggle with the fact that they were “taken” in the nude. Agius and Schmid attempted to tackle the nudity in a literal way by stripping their subjects from any recognizable form of style thus turning them into their natural or real state. The more or less subtle ways of juxtaposition shown in the contrast between these natural forms (bodies) and their artificial backdrop create a feeling of unease and uncomfortableness that is an all too familiar experience which intimate or private photography usually attempts to lure or even trap us into. In the case of this project these nudes —depicted in a fictionalized context- become models estranged from their actual identities and are thus betrayed by the true form of their nakedness. This is emphasized by the supposed natural style of the photographs that suggests a glimpse into their personas.
For the artists it was important to explore the formal history of photography in this series: looking back to various modes and techniques of both art and commercial photography and film. These references remain playful yet earnest, which allows them to make use of humour in an almost surreal fashion.
In preparation for this project Agius and Schmid confronted themselves with basic challenges of representation which were only highlighted in their process: How much can and should our effigy tell about us? This leads to the well-known and widely discussed dangers of image manipulation for the purpose of creating “real” illusions. The artists ask us why even the slightest aspects (moments, situations, etc.) that supposedly reveal our own true selves in an image are able to provoke such a fascination in the viewer.
These questions have an imperative actuality in today’s reality of virtual identities used by many as a platform to promote various agendas. Every frequent camera user is supposed to “know” about the impropriety of photography to translate a profound reality. Yet the inflationary use of photography (especially in virtual spaces) speaks of an unreflected negligence on the part of most of its authors. This suggests that in many cases the use of the medium of photography is even more important than its motive.
“A fish always rots from the head down”
“Mirror mirror on the wall”
All images by Mathilde Agius and Reto Schmid, C-Prints, 26 x 32 cm, 2013.
Courtesy: Mathilde Agius and Reto Schmid
Posted by Domenico de Chirico