These two accordion books contain two types of photographs that I further reworked in approximately one hundred different variations using techniques such as double exposure, filters, cropping, and layering. The first “type” comes from the public domain, these photographs were taken in Paris in the Salpêtrière hospital at the beginning of the twentieth century by the acclaimed psychiatrist Charcot. According to Charcot, these photographs aimed to “represent” the “convulsive crisis” of what one called ‘hysterical’ women and to contribute to the creation and classification/typology of contemporaneous mental illness. The second type comes from the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, these photos were made in the 1970’s and 1980’s in San Francisco. The “Branton” series was realized by a gay photographer, another series named “impersonators” represent ‘impersonators. In short, these accordion books display the following marginalized people: ‘hysterical’ women, gay, and trans people from two different periods of time and place.
The extendable surface of these accordion books depends on a loose grid and each photograph can be read either as a solo photograph or as an element of a broader set. Each set depends on the positioning of the accordion book. The book is a 3D object; it works as an embodiment of a specific configuration, or montage. Because the hands work to adjust the book in a particular way for viewing, the hand and eye connect within the experience of the accordion book.
Unusual juxtaposition of heterogeneous elements and the instability of the accordion book prevent a mechanical recognition of identity and in so doing displace our attention.
For example, the “dialogue” between two apparent, well-defined, enclosed “identities” troubles the categories by which one understands them. The convulsive hysterical woman, far from being captured/constituted through the objectification of the medical gaze, may be read as a woman who dreams about a man dancing.
The juxtaposition of two similar gestures, that of the hysterical convulsive woman and that of the gay man dancing/holding his body in a similar way creates unexpected effects. What if the act of being photographed was what engenders the body’s motion? Is the gay man imitating a convulsive crisis episode he has likely never seen? Is there imitation at all? Or does it suggest that body gestures are far more complicated to understand?
Another example: I edited photographs of impersonators by using filters, double exposure, superimposition, cropping to achieve a multiplication of the subjects within the images. My intention was to push forward a dimension that I was already noticing in these photographs. The images seem to come from dreams. The transiency of dream-like images is rendered through a superimposition of the images that entails slight offsetting, which means the eye cannot stay at a stable place. Instead of encountering the image as adequately representing something (is the portrayal of femininity successful?), one’s attention is rather drawn to the power of psychical images. In other words, the reductive problem of representation that trans people embody at a gender level (does the sexual body conform to a supposed psychic sexual identity?) is dismissed.
These accordion books blur the identities of hysterical women and LGBTQ people. The subjects in the photograph and their identity are not captured. Something is pushing itself onto the surface, away from the side of the image. There is a restlessness of the apparent identities embodied in the image that the montage aims to observe. This “something” which does not have any particular form escapes and reveals itself in its very absence and in doing so becomes noticed. To put it more simply, these books, via its montage quality, proposes a visual thinking molded by a non-ready-made way of thinking/seeing of “marginalized identities” in order to explore them in a new way. Rather than being understood as marginalized or fixed with exclusive identities, they become a visual center point that invites a reevaluation of the coordinates of our conversations regarding identity.