Overview: Who Just Happened
The real skill of the practitioner lies not in skilled concealment but in the skilled revelation of skilled concealment... Hence power flows not from masking, but from an un-masking which masks more than masking does.
~Michael Taussing, from Viscerality, Faith and Skepticism
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring,
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
Two artists from opposite sides of the world, having never met, work with issues of how the self perceives the unknown other in physical and virtual space. Exploring myriad methods of projecting and receiving identity including portraiture, identity theft, performance, and installation, the collaboration will mark their progression toward knowing their fellow collaborator and the nature of the project itself.
Collaboration involves both conscious intentions and unforeseen outcomes of working with someone else. There is a loose promise made, a choice to work with someone with whom one hopes to be artistically compatible. Collaboration depends on a certain assumption of known quantities, ie. self and other. Here however, two strangers are combining into one unknown individual, short-circuiting any sense of control.
Tara Gilbee of Melbourne, Australia, and Robert de Saint Phalle of New York City, United States, met via email and quickly realized the possibility of working together from half a world away. The resulting project spans three phases of proximity and embodiment.
Act 1: Facebook Swap
Gilbee/de Saint Phalle's first exchange will be a set of portraits done using the social utility Facebook. After trading accounts, they will create the other's profile using their research and expectations. For several weeks they will operate under their collaborator's avatar, collecting and interacting with the other's social network. Their portraits will shift over time with feedback from the other's friends and colleagues. In this phase, their close virtual proximity belies their actual physical distance on opposite sides of the earth. De Saint Phalle wonders if there is feminism without a body; Gilbee assumes Facebook is the equivalent of nightclub surveillance (or is it the other way around?).
Act 2: Live-Work Share
De Saint Phalle/Gilbee's second exchange was an installation of a shared studio space in Tara's hometown of Castlemaine, Australia. They were in the same space during different times, taking shifts in the studio. Their efforts focussing on the portrayl of their unknown collaborator and consequently leaving evidence of their own body's activity in space. As the self is in the body, they will saught their collaborator's residual presence to inform their portraits. Is this actually a collaboration or just forensic narcissism?
Act 3: Unmasking? : The Performance
The Housemates' “Ignore The Obvious Task” came to a staggering end with tragic results. ~Big Brother, Australia
The studio a central and small brick space, was actually previously used as a toilet block for the school next door, it had then add feeling of the secretive and furtive meeting of strangers in public places.
A invite was sent and a crowd gathered, through a port hole the un masking could be viewed, on the other side of the space a room was set up as an anti chamer and the audience could wait in this space and over the wall hear the conversations and unveiling take place.
Prior to the Unveiling, both Tara and Robert had on balaclava's, Tara asked Robert to look at a mug sheet and pick which one he thought she was. He picked the wrong one!