FNB JOBURG ART FAIR
Première to South African Audiences of new works by
ROOM/ Booth 12
22 - 24.08.2014
FNB Joburg Art Fair
Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg
Dean’s Bed is Love, intimacy, dreams, longing, conceit, queerness, identity, authenticity and beauty.
Made by Dean Hutton, with people, not of subjects – Chosen family, old friends, new friends, artists. Working, playing, with the participants to reveal, but not capture, ultimate expressions of self... a naked... bare self that holds agency. Shifting photographer to participant, creating relationships and abandoning distance. Making Love.
Like much of the artist’s work, this series of intimate portraits challenges what is “normal” outside of binary concepts of gender, embracing fluidity and a comfortable expression of difference.
Dean on Dean’s Bed - From the artist’s perspective
In my personal work I make photographs from an insider perspective. I believe long-term documentation/ observations of a place/ situation and a community is much more authentic and vital from a person who lives, works and love amidst the people they document. And how shallow the observations of photojournalists who flit in and out of situations often are. The difference is palpable. Who knows your story like you do? Intimate work will always be more meaningful than sensationalism.
Since leaving full-time employment as a photojournalist, I have been made it my mission to document my own life, and my own community. I need to tell stories from my own experience. This process has influenced how I tell outsider stories, allowing me to reflect on how to tell stories of others in a more considered way. It’s also provided a better sense of how to “queer” my perspectives to tell stories in a different way. I’m most interested in finding a queer visual language that expresses my individuality in a way that does not on either extreme; victimise or socially detach me. If anything, it’s a queer ubuntu in which I am a queer being through other queer beings. Looking at the “we” – I started realising that portraiture works best when it’s constructed by both subject and photographer. How much more real an image is when the photographer stops insisting that they are the only author of a photograph. How much of a photograph is also a projecting of the subject’s self-image? I won’t say that I would hand over copyright. But I have no desire to impede another’s self-actualisation through a process we share.!
My work is ultimately about Love. It’s not just that I love the work I do, but I love the people who let me into their lives. I'm making work of other people who are looking back at me. How they are looking at me. I am vulnerable too. And those are the conversations that grow my consciousness. If anything my work is constantly searching for difference and the meaning in that difference. I’m not trying to capture it. I’m wanting it to happen in front of me. I want to be a participant in that experience. This life, this me, that is the artwork – the performance. The images and the text that follow are the documentation of the experiences of a life being realised in real time. And for the most part shared – immediately on social media.
The conceit of the work Dean’s Bed is that I must be comfortable calling that person a friend. How could I not love someone brave enough to be naked in front of me? To be on my bed? And to let me show them as they are. To work with them to reveal their authentic selves? And if others are beautiful in that vulnerability, how can I not make images of myself in the same way? I cannot ask of others that which I cannot do myself. My body is a work in progress, it is working progress. It is not normative. I reject the concept of normality. I am not only creating aesthetic objects but shared experience. Not just between ourselves but with our viewers.
Life is a continuum, creation is re-invention. Queer. Not gay as in happy, queer as in fuck you, I’m happy.
Dean Hutton, Johannesburg, 2014
Various elements are important and evident in the series Dean’s Bed (and her oeuvre), both prosaically and poetically.
Dean’s Bed - as a body of work - evolved out of the expression of Love. The project started in 2012 with a series of Valentine Portraits of close friends Dean refers to as her “chosen family”. Invited participants were asked to bring something personal, an object… a prop that would reference their identities and ease them into the process of unveiling something very intimate…their naked and bare selves.
The project grew to include lovers and new friends who from her perspective embody queerness. Here too the artist is a participating protagonist in the work - as an all inclusive and reflective act.
The Bed/The Mattrace as the backdrop (and thus symbolic backbone) of every portrait, has been an element recurring in Dean’s work (found in both her photographic and film based projects), it was also the first utilitarian object she purchased as a professional. On the other hand the Bed is a symbol of intimacy also makes reference to her private life.
As a collection, Dean’s Bed addresses feminism, queer identity, body image and the body politic. Furthermore, the artist’s position, practice and process intrinsically inform each other. From one perspective is an aesthetic sensibility, which is unconditionally defined by the ongoing refusal to accept normative binary concepts, whilst from another vantage point is her collaborative methodology, which at its core is defined by making pictures with as opposed to taking pictures of participating protagonists.
Dean’s Bed also holds social and symbolic value.
In the series of portraits, the artist’s stance is to convey an authentic voice and to be representational through the gesture of intimacy, desire and love of the individuals, community and social space she occupies.
As a way of reading Dean’s Bed, (as well as Hutton’s broader oeuvre), is the artist’s ongoing intention to subtly subvert visual conventions and heteronormative identifiers - be it through the process of producing works and/or the content she creates.
With Dean’s Bed in mind, the artist’s intention is the hope of negating both the conscious & unconscious imposition of the participant’s self image. By making the collaborative process fluid, Dean creates the platform for self-expression and agency, whilst she also affirms these through the compositions and depictions of that “self”.
By accepting that Identity is performed (particularly within queer identity) within this very position Dean Hutton can be seen as a cultural performer who makes contributions to a broader paradigm critiquing socio-economic, political and visual conventions. In the expression and portrayal of nudity as a gesture of intimacy her portraits can be regarded as a form of cultural resistance. More specifically in a terrain defined by the above-mentioned visual conventions, she boldly inserts compositions from different vantage points (considering race, gender and composition) from the en face portrait to the lying down figure taken from above, and at times figures that appear as if they are floating.