Altered States (2012-2013)
“Altered States” references different states of transformation such as physical transformation and distortion, altered states of consciousness and perception, mythological metamorphosis, but it also evinces the transformative power of the camera. In this body of work I continue to explore the vagaries of subjective perception and challenge the way we see by combining performance and the mechanics of photography itself (light, perspective, chemistry and optics). I tests the limits of the photographic medium by using water as a distorting lens and choosing a stark color palette – the result of a chemical processing of the film – to generate images that oscillate between representation and abstraction and blur the boundary between photography and painting. For a series of large-scale images of distorted human figures, I directed a professional dancer to perform underwater in a swimming pool, testing the body’s resistance in an unfamiliar element and under challenging conditions, thus evoking man’s struggle with nature and the uncertainty of the human experience. Performative aspects have long been part of my work, as evidenced in the video Inferno and in the Poolscapes series, as well as the Pool series, where spontaneous scenes of bathers appear to be composed by a silent choreographer once isolated within the frame of the camera. Together with another set of small and intimate photographs of split reflections that harken back to early 20th century avant-garde photography, these images of bodies caught in a transient state raise questions of essence and identity. In a grid of nine photographs, entitled Collisions, I pursue ongoing experiments with Mylar, begun in recent photographs, videos and a performance/video installation presented at NYCAMS for John Cage’s centennial in 2012. I utilize the reflective surface of the material for the distorting and shimmering qualities it shares with water, an element that has been central to my work. Here, the shiny surface of the Mylar becomes a kind of skin that mirrors the fluidity of the human flesh. Once plunged into water, the inanimate object starts to react to the pressure and chemicals and bend into distorted sculptural shapes as if by magic. The resulting compositions collide at an intersection between violence and sensuality, underlining their ambiguous nature. The monochromatic red images as well as the metallic characteristic of the Mylar can be seen as metaphors for another natural element, synonym to light, and usually perceived as antagonist to water: fire. Both water and fire are the result of a chemical process (likewise they are used in the revelation process of photography) and have been perceived through the ages as purifying elements but also symbols of destruction.