The artificial body personifies the non-living, given life.
Von Kempelen’s automaton ‘Chess Player’ concealed a human operator. Maerterlinck’s actors played marionettes, playing characters. In a clear analogy with post-memory, the non-living influence the living, who in turn influence the dead.
‘Inanimate Reason’ presents surreal photographs showing (often) self-portraits-as-marionette to reference post-memory, memory, experience, made surreal by using a pinhole process to imply the subconscious, and realised as cinematic format photographic prints. Dark yet playful, sometimes difficult to look at, the images form a narrative examining the forces of memory upon the artist, and by proxy, the viewer.
Inanimate Reason is a largely autobiographical project, which takes its title from Von Windisch’s 1794 description of Von Kempelen’s ‘Chess Player’. The project is a collision of different ideas, expressed through the medium of photography to create images filled with incongruity.
It is executed using a digital pinhole process in a cinematic format to create other worldly environmental self (and other) portraits, to explore how the past communicates with and determines the present (and vice versa). The use of a cinematic ratio (16:9) suggests a film like sequence of time. It also creates an interesting paradox – the still image representing the moving.
The work nods to both Magritte’s automaton like figures and Duchamps besuited Mannequin, echoing my interest in the surreal. The business suit is, as Allan Sekula might say, both honorific and subjugate, making it interesting in terms of the aspirations of its wearers, how they might view the world, how the world has influenced them, and how they may seek to influence those around them, and in the work, time is of no consequence, the past, present and future all occupy the same space.
“It does not seem to me, Austerlitz added, that we understand the laws governing the return of the past, but I feel more and more as if time did not exist at all, only various spaces interlocking according to the rules of a higher form of stereometry, between which the living and the dead can move back and forth as they like, and the longer I think about it the more it seems to me that we who are still alive are unreal in the eyes of the dead, that only occasionally, in certain lights and atmospheric conditions, do we appear in their field of vision.” (WG Sebald, ‘Austerlitz’ 2001, p261)
Tim Willcocks 2022