Totally Looks Like

Exhibition: 11 June to 12 July, 2014
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Kawita Vatanajyankur
© Kawita Vatanajyankur

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Jaimie Warren
© Jaimie Warren

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Lucas Davidson (NSW)*
Jackson Eaton
Jacob Ogden Smith (WA)
Kawita Vatanajyankur (AUS/THAILAND)
Jaimie Warren (USA)
Jodie Whalen (NSW)

Back in 2010, The New York Times, critic David Colman wrote that the smart phone ‘self-snap’ was “so common that it is changing photography itself”. The artists in Totally Looks Like expand this idea, working with performance, objects, photo and video to consider the changing relationship between medium and maker.

Jaimie Warren remakes images that she finds on popular Internet sites as self-portraits. In her series Totally Looks Like (which inspired the title of the show) she inhabits humorous image pairings, in which a person, often a celebrity, looks uncannily like someone or something else. Where as, in Celebrities as Food & Food’lebrities, Warren recreates images that digitally merge pictures of food and celebrities. For instance, in Self-portrait as Lasagna Del Ray by thestrutny (2012) Warren is, all at once, herself, a lasagna, and pop singer, Lana Del Ray. With her head on a plate, face covered in sauce, and hidden behind lips the size of sausages, Warren’s total immersion in popular culture is apparently as physical as it is psychological. The beauty of Warren’s gruesome self-portraits is that you come away with absolutely no idea of what she looks like. However, they do produce a highly sophisticated portrait of a contemporary self that is as malleable and messy as the unsophisticated make-up and materials that she uses to craft them.

In Thai-Australian artist Kawita Vatanajyankur’s three videos The Basket, The Robes and Wet Rag, the artist is both symbolically and literally the material making the work—she is the rag that another woman uses to wash the floor, the wet clothing that is caught in a washing basket, and the fabric that hangs over a line, drying in the breeze. This self-deprecating humour, like Warren’s, belies a quiet challenge to high and low-brow distinctions. Vatanajyankur reframes the way craft and fabric-based production have historically been associated with women’s domesticity and considered a lesser form of creativity than the ‘fine arts’ of sculpture and painting.

Crafting himself as an animated potter avatar, Jacob Ogden Smith appears on screen in his installation Pottery Three Ways. As he works away behind his virtual potter’s wheel, the products of Ogden Smith’s semi-fictional ‘free time’ spill out into the gallery, as an odd array of pots and objects. These are imperfect copies of pottery, recreated from film and television. Using processes from 3D printing to traditional clay sculpting, these new forms distort into caricatures of their never-real ‘originals’. By blurring the real and the symbolic, the traditional and the technologically new, 2 and 3 dimensions, this installation reflects how digitised production is changing the nature of the artefact and of the relationship between maker and object.

Jackson Eaton’s Melfies, a selection of printed T-shirts, are hung on retail racks around the gallery. Eaton’s Melfies, meaning ‘mirror-selfies’, aren’t taken in the mirror. Instead he wanted a reflection of himself based on how other people saw him—and created these inverted versions of self-portraits by handing his camera over. A gallery director, his mum, and a photolab attendant, are among the real life characters from his everyday, who got to tell Eaton where and how to pose as himself. The resulting deadpan images are awkward, oddly intimate, and genuinely funny, both an over-share of Eaton’s private world, and a universal insight into our shared over-preoccupation with, as he puts it, “how we see others seeing us”.

Lucas Davidson converges the materiality of media and the ‘self’ in his large-scale video projection Internal Monologue. Davidson separates photo self-portraits from their paper, before filming the emulsion as it moves in water. His facial features eerily fold and unfold, twist and turn, in a constant state of change that is as disturbing as meditative and mesmeric. Liberating the medium from its usual constraints suggests the transient flow of consciousness, and the illusion that we create, as he puts it, “a seemingly permanent sense of ‘self’ out of a series of endless disjointed moments.”

Lifting My Weight, a new video work by Jodie Whalen, continues her exploration into transformative everyday rituals. In contrast to the other self-portraits in Totally Looks Like, Whalen doesn’t appear in hers. Instead the viewer shares her point of view, joining her on daily sunrise walks up local hills in suburbia, a banal routine that we find becomes magical and metaphysical. The weight Whalen is trying to lift isn’t from her body, but from her spirit: the process of art making and meditation become one. But her perspective is also ‘at one’ with her portable video recorder, in a collapsing of medium and maker that means Whalen, as much as the technology, mediates what we see.

By blurring the line that separates our selves from the technologies we use to express ourselves, the artists in Totally Looks Like explore the self as medium.

* Lucas Davidson is represented by Dominik Mersch Gallery