I’m taking a different direction in my work for this module. In many ways it is an extension of previous modules, though more of a side alley than a new road.
I want to explore the differences between my son and me in our sense of identity. My son is very comfortable in his own skin and seems to have a very solid sense of who is. He is a rock. I, on the other hand, have from my earliest days had a malleable and insecure sense of self. I am water.
The project is to bring some of those key identities I explored and ‘played’ with as a child (it has settled down in adulthood!) into the domestic sphere with my son Tom. There is an inversion here, alluding to carinval, in which he arguably has the emotional makeup of an adult, I one of a child. There is also a key theme here: Play.
This is not Cosplay. For me, my absorptions and reflections of aspects of characters ranging from Luke Skywalker of Star Wars to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were deadly serious, and as each ‘character’ was lived through, it feels as though there has been a degree of absorption. I wonder how much of the entity that is me is an amalgam of the fantasies of the past?
I’m hugely grateful to my tutor Cemre, who recommended I read DW Winnicott’s Playing and Reality.
Much of his writing directly impacts upon my project, including his examination of what play is, what it does and ‘where’ it happens. As I read Winnicott, I became convinced that what I was doing as a child, and sometimes in later life, was an act of creative play, a ‘becoming through doing’.
“Without hallucinating the child puts out a sample of dream potential lives with this sample in a chosen setting of fragments from external reality.”
He writes of, “the moments when the original poet in each of us created the outside world for us by finding the familiar in the unfamiliar, are perhaps forgotten by most people; or else they are guarded in some secret place of memory because they were too much like visitations of the gods to be mixed with every day thinking.”
I have not forgotten!
And in exploring what I was as I was, I think that following my abandonment by my mother there was an element of very low self-esteem combined with a desire to control my own narrative.
Winnicott puts it thus, “To control what is outside one has to do things not simply to think or to wish and doing things takes time. playing is doing.
“This playing is not in a psychic reality. It is outside the individual but it is not the external world.”
Interestingly, some of my foibles probably stem from my relationship with the mother’s breast.
“Clinically one needs to deal with the case of the baby who has to make do with an identity with a breast that is active, which is a male element breast, but which is not satisfactory for the initial identity which needs a breast that is, not a breast that does. Instead of ‘being ‘like’, this baby has to ‘do like’, or to be done to, which our point of view here is the same thing.”
This is remarkable. And makes peculiarly deep sense to me.
In terms of visualising this project, I had previously been thinking about masks, as in the masked self, which has taken me towards the works of Cindy Sherman and Ralph Eugene Meatyard.
But in representations of play, particularly in terms of play and identity within the domestic sphere, I am drawn instead to artists such as Ana Casas Broda’s Kinderwunsch. Not only does the work depict and concern itself with play, it is the product of play between herself and her children. It is beautiful and moving, insightful and challenging.
I want to absorb elements of play into the photographic process, starting with how characters and scenes are chosen. I have a list of 10 of the characters that I absorbed most and a somewhat longer list of aspects of our current domestic life and the children are keen to make a game of pairing the two up. Whether by drawing them by lots or through some other means of ‘gaming’ remains to be decided.
Winnicott, D.W. (2012). Playing and Reality. Hoboken: Taylor And Francis.
anacasasbroda. (n.d.). INICIO. [online] Available at: https://www.anacasasbroda.com [Accessed 6 Oct. 2020].