Seeing the Self Through Reborn through Ritual

Making work within my domestic space led to further exploration of how sacred meaning and ritual holds potential to expand the reading of an image.

With the works Baptism (2015-2016) and Baptism (2016) I began capturing private rituals such as bathing with the iPhone.

This work sought to explore notions of rebirth, regeneration and reawakening with a self-defined ‘Baptism.’ 

The sacrament of Baptism in the Catholic Church is conferred by immersion in water or the pouring or sprinkling of water, while the same person pronounces the words, I baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (1)

I was interested in the every-day nature of bathing as a ritual that might be performed as an rite of initiation.

The act of bathing is for me a ‘time-out’, meditation, or reflection. Creating this work was a way of engaging with that space of contemplation. 

Baptism (2015-2016) is a photographic print containing twenty-five tightly-cropped images of my face within a white grid. It is mounted onto a large floor-based box whose sides are covered with white tiles.

Baptism (2016) is an almost identical print mounted on aluminium but with notable variations in the configuration of the images. I have photographed my face from various angles semi-submerged in bathwater with edges of the bath visible in the frame.

Like other photos I have taken Baptism  appears to occupy both a digital and analogue space.

The repetition of the images in quick and even succession speaks to the digital tool however the grid and portrait style layout reference the layout of contact sheets of film-based photography.

Leaving the images laid out as multiples in the final prints highlights the process-oriented nature of selfie creation and its links to traditional portraiture.

Baptism also acknowledges our heightened awareness of the camera when taking a selfie - even in our most private and relaxed of moments.

As it is part of our smartphone, the camera is more frequently accessible.

The presence of the camera in Baptism is reinforced by the fragmented ghostly reflections of my iPhone on the water and there are shadows of my hand across my face as I hold it to take the image.

The stretch of my neck to frame my full face further indicates the ‘selfie-style’ method of taking the photographs.

The presence of cosmetic clay in every image directs the viewer to the surface of my face. With eyes open and shut, the white clay creates a thin mask evoking the porcelain surface of the cameo referenced in Camellia Selfie.

By utilizing the mask as clay I engage with a critique of the selfie as a tool which separates the face into a mask of itself. 

The mask’s purpose beyond this fragmenting effect is to also flatten or smooth-out my skin to try and engage the viewer with the eyes.

My gaze through this mask of clay is not passive or vacant instead it attempts to reach out of the water to connect to the viewer/camera with intimate directness.

The image in Baptism reflects a rebirth of seeing, and speaks to my desire to know myself in a new way. The water of the bath acts as a transitional space where this change can occur. 

The installation of the floor-based Baptism infers a baptismal font or a small-scale bath, complete with its white tiles.

To look at my image, the viewer looks down onto the horizontal plane as well as up to the print high up the wall above. This shifts the experience of the work, inviting the viewer’s awareness of how their body relates to the images. 

One can walk around and even touch the faces reflecting up out of the water as you look down into their upward gaze.

Like Narcissus leaning over the pond to look at himself [2] this work positions the self as an image immersed within its own personal ritual and ceremony, and invites the viewer to reflect on its potential significance.

 

(1) "What Is Baptism in the Catholic Church," http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-sacraments-of-baptism-and-confirmation.html.Accessed 3/9/2016

[2] The Greek Myth of Narcissus is a warning against self-love as narcissism.  He was a beautiful young man who was once walking by a lake or river and decided to drink some water; he saw his reflection in the water and was surprised by the beauty he saw; he became entranced by the reflection of himself. He could not obtain the object of his desire though, and he died at the banks of the river or lake from his sorrow "The Greek Myth of Narcissus," http://www.greekmyths-greekmythology.com/narcissus-myth-echo. Accessed 10/10/2016