How much are we able to receive from the mass of information contained in a portrait? Add to this the possibility of confusing or intensifying the viewer’s focus with the nature of portraits which are not static and the possibility for untold reinterpretations taking place becomes apparent. What does each viewer bring to the temporary encounter? Beyond the immediacy of the visible, can we connect to the subliminal layers which are part of the artist’s own interpretation of their subject? What is contained in the reinterpretation which we take away as a memory. These thoughts prompted me to draw on the idea of Chinese Whispers, and the changes which occur in transmission of information to see if I could inspire viewers to find a deeper focus in responding to selected portraits.
A movement of responses to the movement within each portrait.
It was a fascinating afternoon being able to observe the public gaze interacting with that of the unseeing portraits. My initial reluctance to disrupt the silent exchanges taking place disappeared as each person or group approached, were interested to consider how and why the information we receive from a visual starting point is transformed and reinterpreted as it passes through those who receive it.
A series of intense conversations took place. Each in itself moving in response to the reactions collected to specific portraits. The subject ranged widely from the unusual nature of the exhibition, modern art found in a fortress in Cadiz, and the agreed handsomeness of David B.
My request was simple: please respond to 5 questions relating to a specific portrait with one word answers. I also responded to different individuals by loosening the constraints of the instructions to 5 words which came to mind. This allowed for a more emotional response, prompting the viewer to engage further with their own experience of particular relationships. It had the effect of expanding their sense of distance or connection to either the subject or the observing taker of the image. Sue Phipps pinpointed a moral dilemna which occurs when a strongly negative response takes place through a personal judgement defining the interaction. Do we have a responsibility to question our reactions? I pass this on for reflection.
The multitude of indicators for indifferent or strong responses ranged from the experience of having a father who was one of twins, contempt or admiration for the subject portrayed, the poignancy of a mother’s recent death, to a love of dogs. The constraint of 5 words distilled the essence of a response experienced for an individual, but I liked the silent rebellion to conform, which many people exhibited towards a greater expansiveness. 2 companions who participated, Gemma and Sue, enjoy seeing art together, balancing each other as poet/artist and self described non artist. Their playful eloquence meant that they were happy to engage in reflective exploration of different portraits. They enjoyed analysing their responses and found that they developed a greater connection with the act of seeing from a more internal place. Other participants also found it intriguing to examine their responses and decided to return for further visits to maximise their experience of the exhibition.
The next stage for my interaction on Saturday the 12th of March will be to add my own transmitting noise to the information received, to pass on a further interpretation. Will the original portrait remain identifiable throughout this process of movement…….