Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Somnambulists: Photography of Joanna Kane

Everyone who attended Mortuary School will remember making a plaster mask of their face. I still have mine. Years ago, plaster masks were made during life, and after death for memorials and for scientific research. What is left behind in these masks speaks clearly of individuality, personality and humanity.
'The Somnambulists’ is a series of photographic digital prints based on photographs of early nineteenth century phrenological casts. The images are large format monochrome digital photographs with subtle digital adjustments which suggest an illusory sense of the original living subject of the cast. The project is called ‘The Somnambulists’, with refererence to mesmerism, current at the time that many of the casts originate from, as the resulting portraits appear to exist in an ambiguous suspended state between life, death and sleep.The images are created using layered digital techniques which are essentially photographic in nature to produce the illusion of skin, while still retaining the details and marks from the original plaster surface.
From Kane’s introduction to The Somnambulists:
“The life or death mask can be considered the sculptural analogue of the photographic portrait. Both suggest direct traces from life, involve positive and negative, and evoke a mysterious connection between living, breathing subject and captured image…
In creating the portraits, the aim has been to take these subjects out of the categories and hierarchies of the phrenological collection. My interest has been in transforming them from disembodied scientific specimens into photographically embodied images of individual men and women.”

somnambulist mask

'The Somnambulists', Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2008
for more information, visit 'Library' in the column to the right of this blog

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