etat normal

Digital C-prints 30x40, 40x60cm and 60x80cm, framed, tone installation, 2 videos, 2008-09 Paula Muhr

The work centres on the analysis of cultural and ideological conditioning of the construction of self-image. It plays with the (im)possibility and innate deceptiveness of self-representation.

With the invention of photography one of its early applications was in medicine and physiognomy. Photography as a seemingly objective medium was used, among others, by Duchenne de Boulogne as a means of recording his electrophysiological experiments. The aim was to map and categorise the facial muscles which are responsible for various facial expressions. With the introduction of photography the face (and the body) has become the object of the normative medical and scientific gaze, which today has also expanded to the contemporary advertising.

The central part of the work are "self-portraits" - images of my face taken at moments of "ecstasy" when I had no rational control of myself. My face is deformed into grimaces without clear semantic content. These images question the possibility of fully mapping and controlling the body in terms of knowledge and regulatory mechanism.

The open mouth is a recurring motif in my self-portraits. In the visual canon it is often related to the loss of identity, as an expression of scream, of pain or pleasure, of fear or surprise. Yet it is always regarded as ambiguous and obscene since it makes visible what by convention should remain unrepresented. My face in the images is no longer identity-bearing. The orgasmic face undermines the attempts of standardising and classifying. Although the face is visible, it is no longer readable. It is an ec-static face in the etymological sense of the word, displaced by desire and intense emotions and therefore void.

The "authentic" photographic "self-portraits" are montaged with an audio track, a video, staged photograph which refer to history of photography and schematic diagrams. The looped HD video is a record of my restaging of my own "ecstatic" expressions, but now in a fully rational state. Staged images are a direct reference to Duchenne's photos - a hand of my partner, like Duchenne electic dyods, manipulates my facial expressions - they are no longer ex-pressions but im-pressions. The audio track presents my mapping and appropriating of theoretical discources pertaining to the topic as well as an analysis of the pertaining visual material from both history of science and cultural and art history.