Exhibition for the Arnolfini Bristol: A Picture of Health? Women Photographers from the Hyman Collection
Midnight, Charing Cross
C- Type colour print
50.8 x 76.2 cms (19.96 x 29.95 ins)
Pierre Birtschansky Galerie, Paris
Paris, Pierre Birtschansky Galerie, Susan Hiller, text by Jill Lloyd, (English/French/German), 12 pages (illus. colour)
From the edition of 3
C-type photograph enlarged from handworked photobooth images.
Hiller's self-portrait series, Midnight, is not just about self-presentation but about communication: the mechanical versus the human, the machine-made versus the marks of the hand, the impersonal versus the expressive. A face is cooly communicated through a photograph. An obsessive script appears to be a desperate attempt to convey information.
As Hiller, herself, has explained:
"They're photobooth images. I've done hundreds of pictures of other people using photobooths, which I conceive of as a small theatre. It has curtains. And it's also the challenge of the traditional portraiture of the head-and-shoulders format. So at a certain point I began to wonder why I wasn't taking pictures of myself, and I had been thinking about all the things we've all been thinking about: self-image, self-presentation, self-enactment, whatever you want to call it. How one's image is then read, contextualised. This was at the end of the seventies, when I first started doing the self-portrait series. And then I did a couple every year or so.
The idea was to take the inside and put it on the outside, in that this mysterious "calligraphy" would be a veil between the viewer and the representation of face, of a woman's face. It happened to be my face. And I thought, someone's making puns. It's hard to say it quickly, but it was about the idea of the hand of the artist juxtaposed with the portrait. So here I was actually this hand, and that was on the surface of the photograph. You have to understand, the images start off as tiny miniatures, and then I do this writing, as I call it. It's actually not writing, but it amounts to the same thing. And then they're enlarged. The reason that I call it writing and not drawing is because the Greeks had only one word for writing and drawings, and that interests me very much. The flow between mark-making, meaning and writing. This is an area which is very important to me." (Thinking about Art: Conversations with Susan Hiller, pp.156-157).
We are grateful to Susan Hiller and her studio for assistance in cataloguing this work.
British Photography / The Hyman Collection