Research Overview

Last time I rambled on about dance, controlling the body and the pursuit of perfection.
Obviously, everything about that project has changed now because that's how art works - most of the time you start with something and end up with something else.

I'm still very much interested in the body and how it's been and is being portrayed in art - and especially nowadays, mass media. I'm interested in dance and photography as the means of investigating that body subject, and how through them, I might bring across both my personal experiences, and universal ideas of the body, physicality - and its connection to the mind.
Also feminism.
And gender stuff.

Obscure gibberish, I grant you that but trying to briefly sum up my personal approach and main interests isn't as easy as you might assume.
Especially as I tend to get fascinated by just about anything that I come across while doing research. And boy, do I love doing all kinds of research: reading academic text, looking at artist books, going to exhibitions, watching films, studying art history, searching for background info about psychology, philosophy, biology, ... the list is endless.

I'm not gonna lie, my chaotic doing-everything-at-once approach is not likely the most efficient one, and were I to focus my attention on specific things rather than frantically jumping from topic to topic, I might achieve a slightly more concise view on whatever it is that I'm currently working on. But let's leave the topic of my questionable working methods alone and talk about something else.
That something else being my current standpoint in the ongoing project.

In terms of the assignment criteria I have to discuss the issues of power and control in some way, so that's where I have to start - and consequently - where I have to end up if I want to pass. On the other hand, it is also crucial to do something that I find personally significant, something that I want to do. This is a thing that our tutors have really began emphasizing: if it doesn't mean anything to you, and you're only doing it in order to fulfill the brief or please someone else, don't do it - do something else.

Last summer I made a dance-video project about panic and anxiety, but since I never felt finished with the topic, I'm very much moving back to those issues. Only this time I'm working with still images because at the moment video just doesn't feel like my thing at all.

The story of my work is kind of multi-layered so I'll briefly look at each stage ascending from general to specific, universal to personal.

1. Vagueness at its best

I don't, as of yet, have any solid facts to back this up, but perhaps we can overlook that for now. Frankly, today's world - or more accurately, the Western world, which I also inhabit - is socially quite harsh. Fair enough, for a privileged European white girl like me, there are innumerable opportunities and ways to go in life. On one hand, I am strongly encouraged to get a good education, follow my dreams, make the most of my talents; on the other, there is an ever-growing pressure to get us young adults set in professional life as quickly as possible because apparently prolonged student life costs too much for the society.
I guess the whole thing about postmodernism is present here: there are no right answers, no straight paths and in fact, such an amount of contradictory ideals that confusion is inevitable.
That is, being obliged to answer the demands of our parents, our teachers, media and the society while still keeping our own heads clear can be very overwhelming.
That is the state of the world, and puzzling out your own life is a massive challenge for many.
So massive indeed, that all kinds of mental disorders have become a normality. An increasing amount of seemingly healthy people regularly see a therapist to keep their assets against stress and anxiety strong. Maybe the ordinariness of various mental and emotional problems is merely due to the fact that every combination of physical and psychical symptoms can nowadays be called something: social anxiety, panic disorder, depression, eating disorder, generalized anxiety, rather than just shrugging such sensations off as hysteria or melancholia - or pain madness.
In short, the socially competitive and demanding lifestyle may have a connection to the commonness of panic and anxiety in today's society.
This is pretty clear though, so I might not necessarily need this level at all. Who knows.

2. Panic and anxiety simplified

Panic attacks have as many triggers as there are panickers. They are highly subjective and personal experiences, but the list of all the possible symptoms of a panic attack goes like this: palpitations, sweating, tingling sensations in fingers, trembling, shortness of breath, hyperventilation, shaking, shivering, churning stomach, choking  sensation, chest pain, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, feeling faint, numbness, pins and needles, ringing ears, need for toilet, feeling of dread/dying; and depersonalization. Obviously one needn't have to have all of those at once to be diagnosed as experiencing a panic attack.
Panic attacks are often connected to social anxiety, causing them to occur in social situations where, in addition to the unpleasantness of the panic itself one is likely to feel humiliation or embarrassment, and kind of inadequacy as a member of the social event.
Anxiety, general or social, easily becomes a part of somebody's life who has experienced panic attacks. The fear of not being able to control one's feelings in certain situations kicks off a vicious circle where the anticipation of panic feeds anxiety, which culminates in panic.
So, panic and anxiety are inner manifestations of emotional power struggles and the fear of losing control of oneself.
N.B. This is only one way of looking at the issues in question, and you personal experience of panic and anxiety might be completely different. In addition to investigating this subject matter as a whole, I also need to focus on things that will link to the more general issues that I am supposed to be discussing through this project - power and control that is.

3. Psychoanalysis, of course

Of course I need a theoretical position as well, and there's something about my work visually that connects it to psychoanalysis. This is a very vague description but apparently, according to Freud, bodily fragmentation in dreams has something to do with anxiety. But since we are talking about Freud, the anxiety is obviously caused by sexual repression or some oedipal conflict dating from childhood.
So yeah.
That's there, and surrealism, which is plainly based on the idea of subconscious, which originates from psychoanalysis, has had a great impact on my visual language. But I will promptly deny any suggestions of childhood traumas or repressed sexual fantasies.

But let's have some images. First of all, Dalì because he was probably the first artist whose name actually stayed in my head, and that says a lot as I generally suck with names. I can't really pinpoint any favourites from his extensive work of life - it is mainly just the entirety of his creation that fascinates me.

an example that may or may not have a connection to my work

Another surrealist artist from around the same period of time is Hans Bellmer whose extremely disturbing doll sculptures and drawings are nothing if not creepy, sexual and misogynist. And yet...visually so interesting.

these are the easy and nice ones

And then I'll just have throw in some Francesca Woodman because I am continuously drawn back to her work no matter how many times I look at and analyse it.

I don't actually have an epic bottom line for this aspect so let's move on.

4. In practice

What am I actually doing then? I'll show you two pictures and then talk about them in a few words.

I apologize for the darkness and smallness but that's as good as you're going to get at this stage.

Anyway, there are the fragmentation and surrealism, detachment that links to depersonalization that I listed as symptoms for panic attack. These two are in no way an exemplary representation of the variety of photographs that I have taken so far, nor are they the best or the worst - bare in mind that at the moment I have 200+ pictures on my hard drive and more to be made in next weeks 9 hours of studio time so things might drastically change.
However, my working method is consistent, and has its part to play in this power and control scenario that our final exhibition is going to be built around. First of all, every time I pick up a camera, I have the control in my hands. The photographer makes the decisions of what to show, when and how. Photography is not an objective medium in any way: the camera has its own anatomy and technology, and the means to produce images, but it is the photographer who decides what to include inside the frame.
A dancer is in total control of her body. She knows exactly what her body is doing at any give moment, she instantly knows if she has made a mistake. Classical ballet is all about bodily and interpretive perfection. Contemporary dance has a different language but it is a descendant of classical ballet even though it is influenced by other dance styles. Contemporary dancer is as much in control of her body as a ballerina.

The way I create these images is setting the camera in self-timer that takes nine shots in a row whilst I am dancing, improvising to the music of my choice.

The keywords, self-timer and improvising, are vital for the issues of power and control here because both of them are ways in which I let go of the power that I have over the outcome of the work. I am still in control of the lighting, the camera angle, the camera settings, the clothing and the music that inspires the way I move in front of the camera. But moving without a choreography, and letting the mechanics of the camera take the photos I am balancing in between losing and having control.

5. Personal touch

There are multiple reasons as to why this project is personally a meaningful one. I am something of a perfectionist by nature, I like feeling in control of myself and the things that I do. I like knowing exactly how I appear to others, how I look, how I sound, how I seem. I don't give my trust easily to anyone and I keep a certain distance.
I used to have huge issues with improvisation in dance classes because I couldn't detach myself from the situation and what others were doing. I was, and continue to be, uncertain of my talents and nervous of creating my own in the fear of being told that I suck. I am self-conscious of my technical inadequacy, and the fact that I'm not as skinny as I'd like to be.
Every now and then, under a considerable amount of stress, I get panic attacks and anxiety.
So, trust issues, control-freakiness, panic - the whys for having an urge to attempt some art creation about this delightful topic.

And that's about it. A terribly long entry, I have to admit, but it has helped me to clarify my thoughts on this project as well as pointed out some questions I still need to ponder over.
Which is essentially why I have this blog in the first place.