Bill: What is Left, for me, was a powerful and emotionally engaging exhibition. Interestingly, for me, this a part of the Grief Series that I have not had too much contact with, so going along to the exhibition I was not too sure of what to expect, how it would be formatted and what the atmosphere would be like.
On entering the gallery I was taken by the amount of people that were totally engrossed and engaged with the artwork. Each of the ‘portraits’ consist of four elements: the photograph, the audio interview, a transcript booklet and a seat. The concept is relatively simple, portraits of people with items that they have inherited, and an interview about the significance of the object for that person, however, the execution and emotional graft that is evident within each of the portraits creates an enthralling piece of work.
The photographs are well composed and detailed, sometimes the inherited item is self-evident and sometimes it fits in to the photograph in less obvious ways creating a game of sorts with the viewer where they sometimes have to figure out what the object is. The true artistry is in the expressions captured by the photographer, managing to capture the happiness of knowing a person along with the sadness of losing someone from your life. Particularly of note is the portrait of Michael and his satchel bag.
Each photograph is accompanied by an audio track that entails Ellie conducting an interview with the participant, through the use of a card game to allow the participant control over the questions. The audio really breathes life in to the photographs, creating an enticing and enrapturing audio visual experience. What was striking about the audio tracks was the amount of humour that was evident within it which acts as a sharp reminder that these dead people were once alive, and in turn this compounds the loss that is inherent within the artwork. The humour was especially evident in Ricky’s audio track where he discusses his friend’s ‘large member’, this was said in jest but in a way that magnifies the strength of the friendship that was once there.
I found the audio element allowed me to lock in to the artwork and examine the photographs, and the text element further adds to this. The craftsmanship in these transcript booklets is sublime, the artists have chosen to not print the entirety of the interview and not put them in order, initially, I found this slightly distracting from the audio and the photograph, but once I had experienced one or two of the portraits I began to understand the sequencing of the texts. These became a contentious issue between my companion and I, he thought they were more powerful and rendered the audio tracks pointless, I felt pretty much the opposite. Yet, I think in places it is useful to have the written aspect too to really confound the meaning of the words that you are hearing.
Each of the portraits has a corresponding chair to go with it, these are well chosen and reflect the interior of each participants house and personality that is evident in the photographs. This ensures that the viewer is interacting with each portrait on a one to one basis. This creates an interesting dynamic where you engage with the portrait in quite an intense one-to-one fashion. This also means that there is a lot of time waiting for the next portrait to become available; this was quite useful as a kind of ‘cooling-off’ time from the portraits.
All the elements of What is Left seem to work in harmony with each other, and the total effect is incredibly compelling. We are drawn in by the stories that stem from the inherited objects and the people that satellite off from the object. To hear and see the remaining psychic and physical elements of someone who has passed away forces you to contemplate your own mortality.