Flashing montage

This work questions the surrealist collage by Man Ray, published in the last issue of the surrealist revolution in 1929 [1]: to which type of femininity is this collage pointing, which in return reveals the surrealist conception of masculinity, and gender more broadly? To explore this issue, I created what I am calling a counter-echo of the original montage. By counter-echo I mean 1) the ways in which the original collage resonates and engenders collages that work as both the negative and the reversal of the initial collage, and 2) the diffraction or ripple effects as responses to the original image. The work proceeds as a repetition/variation of a collage through alteration of color, contrast, noise…  To do so, I replaced the initial (centered) female nude with a male nude, and the initial surrealist photo-booths with female surrealist auto-portraits, and I reworked them by using contrast, filter, and noise. I created a set of collage variations that lays out different dynamics between these two sets of images, displayed through a looping timeline. There are a total of 8 images that follow each other for 0.8 s, then the process starts again.

The team of female auto-portraits work as the reversal of the collective (male) surrealist action. The collective and performative aspects of feminism are underscored. Women present themselves in an active way: the auto-portraits are not automatic, the eyes are not shut, they play with their own reflection. The central image of the female nude in Man Rays’ collage is replaced with a Renaissance male nude, that works as the counterpart of the narrative that idealizes the female body. The progressive dissolution of the male nude and the progressive photographic rise in power of the female presence, as well as the repetition/variation of the images in a timeline that creates a flashing effect, release a certain aggressiveness.

Motion performs the embodiment of the power game. But the loop structure signals the disorienting timelessness of gender roles, and that there is neither a beginning nor an end. Is there something beyond this gender-role power game? Can we exist outside of this frame? Through this looping timeline, I play with the ways in which one perceives background and foreground, their reversal, and their relationship to gender role. Viewing the shifting dynamic between surrealist female auto-portraits and male nudes develops awareness of one’s habitual focus. How do we participate in the binary male/female by viewing? How can one shift from a male gaze to a female gaze?

[1] The collage that aims to be a collective portrait of surrealism, is composed by a central reproduction of a small oil on canvas by Magritte, representing a nude woman, with a text “je ne vois pas…[and] cachée dans la forêt” (I do not see … hidden in the forest), surrounded by 16 photobooths of famous surrealist people with closed eyes.