My work is a commentary on contemporary existential angst, and the concerns of being rather than merely existing. I address, in particular, my dislocation as a middle-aged white male within contemporary South African society. This includes a sense of alienation and loss of identity as a result of the displacement of white masculinity in the social hierarchy. This entails coming to terms with the coming of age in Apartheid South Africa, facing traumatic aspects of my past and dealing with guilt, remorse, self- loathing and anger. Whilst utilising the selfportrait to identify and locate myself, I simultaneously subvert and deconstruct the medium which speaks of my alienation and fractured psyche. It is also indicative of a very specific postmodern environment into which our South African society is transforming as rural meets urban, traditional meets modern, culture interacts with culture, race with race and the have-nots with the haves. By commenting on myself I critique the society I find myself located within and often at odds with.
My own proof of life begins with the construct of the artist, swany. I subvert both selfportraiture and photography as a medium becoming the subject and the object, the viewer and the artist. This is firstly achieved by becoming the unseen photographer behind the camera as well as the subject whose image is captured by its exposing action. Secondly, by looking for the camera and allowing it to document a conceptual process or/and its resultant conclusion. Proof of Life is my attempt to provide evidence of my existence. I have done this utilising the method of the serial selfportrait,
repeatedly capturing myself with a camera.
I began taking proof of life images of myself, daily and sometimes twice a day for the period of one year. I would hold up the local daily newspaper, much like ransom victims would, in an attempt to locate myself. By doing this I am presenting myself within very specific space, and locating myself within specific time and place. Newspapers, disposable and of little value, often contain information of frightening import, they themselves devices of documentation. I also reworked the images in various editing programmes, playing with contrasts, white balances and other settings, in order to give them a sense of hyper-reality and grittiness. I envisaged row upon row of large, gritty and stark, proof of life photographs in chronological sequence mounted on a white wall.
In my Proof of Life piece I present myself in the two most basic societal constricts: who I am and what I do. In This is Who I Am (2013) I present my serial portrait of 365 images (42cm x 30cm) printed on textured wallpaper. The textured surface breaks the flatness/ 2-dimensionality of the image and all that the flat surface means within the tenets of Modern art. Wallpaper is also associated traditionally with domesticity and the patriarchal roles of male dominance and female submission. Its images are mass produced and bland, and it is considered flimsy and therefore temporary decoration by its very nature.