“A Day at Home” is the title of the upcoming exhibition by photographer and filmmaker Charlotte Colbert on show at The Gazelli Art House from the 29 of November to the 15 of December. The solo show of the London-based artist explores the characters of the housewife and the writer within the environment of the house. The works are black and white pictures shot on film of medium format which show the original frame of the film as to draw a window of voyeuristic kind or to reveal the eye of the photographer.
Charlotte’s work has a narrative character; she is a story-teller before being a photographer and her work can be compared to a film script. To achieve such script-effect she has extensively experimented with different techniques such as the use of large scale triptychs in her previous project “Stornoway”.
In “A Day at Home” the photographer questions the essence of the medium of photography itself, both freezing the view with the black frame of the film and at the same time providing a temporal dimension to the work, constructing the sequence of images like in a film script. Nevertheless just like for a script the series of pictures are an unrefined product; they leave space to the viewer to construct his/her own journey within the storyteller’s narrative.
What is essential to Colbert’s work, besides its filmmaking and surreal qualities often highlighted, is the process with which the pictures are made. Obviously the series here presented with the title “A day at Home” constitutes a fully designed project where the pictures are “made” rather than taken and where the subject of the images is constructed rather than chosen. Charlotte, instead of hunting her characters in the real world and assembling them like “as found” (to borrow a term used by the Independent Group in the 50’s) fragments, produces them through an accurate work of curatorship.
The images are shots on medium format film using long and double exposure along with mirrors which are essential to create the fictional atmosphere of a dream. The work plays along the thin line which identifies the categories of the real and un-real and clearly refers to surrealist heritage in the composition of the images. Nevertheless charlotte’s work technically distinguishes from its surrealist precedents which rather relied on other techniques like photomontage to reach similar results.
The set or stage of the photo shoot is a house in decay in the east London. The characters of the housewife and the writer as depicted by the author appear here as complementary and interdependent; one resembles and constructs the other like in a mirror. Like two parts of the same subject, fragmented here nearly to remind the Lacanin phase of the mirror stage (which she alludes to, even through her use of the mirror in the picture making), they clearly engage in a dialogue/non-dialogue like in a Beckettian drama.
Like a self-portrait in the mirror the photographer/writer captures the identities of the characters hiding their faces that she transforms in symbolic images as to label their body and mind. The house-shaped heads represent the imprisoned identity of the subject who is labelled, for instance, by the role of the housewife. The hands of the protagonist instead are often engaged with the writing machine as to enhance the fragmentation of mind and body into a double identity. Alongside the categories of real and un-real, other dichotomies are instrumental to the artist’s narrative such as the feminine and masculine aspects of a personality as well as strengths and fragilities of the human subject.
In Charlotte Colbert’s work what is it that visually and psychologically moves and engages the subject-viewer?