Student work: Plenty to see here
Andy Be’s ‘Self and Other’
Assignment 3 ‘The Self and the Other’: create a series of six images of ‘you’ that show different selves. Andy Be’s response: six self-portraits showing the self as a body trapped. By what? Maybe other people’s prejudices, images, ideas; maybe my own. Different colours for different emotions sounds like a pretty well-worn trope but it doesn’t feel like that here. In the first pair a yellow figure is turned inwards and downwards – a gesture of grief? – and there’s the shadow of another image as well, like a second thought. That layering is a bit of a signature style with Andy and it continues through the next three images. In the second panel the figure is tangled in red and reaching upwards. It looks like frustration rather than rage although I can’t get Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan modelling Christian Dior’s Autumn Winter Collection 2017 out of my head. Or Gahan’s Angels and Ghosts. Is this high art or pop culture? In the next pair a body bound in blue rope recalls Japanese ‘shibari’ – sadomasochistic bondage (photographers may recall the work of Araki) and the expression is that of orgasm, while its partner is draped in green and the hands are folded into the chest as if in prayer. The final set pairs a zombie with Japanese butoh. On the left the plastic sheet is a second skin, or the self is trapped behind an invisible wall, or it’s a corpse in a morgue. On the right, the body is naked except for white body paint. In butoh, the dancers paint their bodies so that the audience focus on the body and its gestures rather than the identity of the dancer. Here, the body is purified of self-image, stripped of everything even its tattoos, those ultimate symbols of individuality. In terms of edit it’s great progression – each body is wrapped or obscured until at the end it’s just you, nothing but self.
For Assignment 5’s open brief Andy decided to create a tableaux. Again, he employed a rich symbolic language. The BDSM references are obvious of course: power and vulnerability, dominance and submission, but BDSM is also supposed to include trust and it’s a trust that is about to be abused in the central panel. Here, the motif of a gloved hand offering a plate of sweets and another hand reaching towards them is reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s ‘The Creation of Adam’ . This really works as a formal device. The through lines from the latex clad figure to the gloved arm, the ‘contrapposto’ of each body and the slight difference in elevation between the two are nicely done.
The red blobs on the man’s body are tiny on screen and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re maybe the dripped wax sometimes used in BDSM play, but in print you can see that they’re actually the sweets in the shape of lips, signifying temptation of course. The framed portrait self-evidently stands for a child while the curtain creates another layer of tension – behind it is a secret. But that which is revealed is also the past and maybe it’s the figure in the left panel looking back at his own past.
Andy worries about what his images may say to someone who views them out of context: ‘I do not want these images to be a literal exploration of abuse. I want my images to be open to interpretation: my intended meaning will be there, of course, but only for those who wish to see it’. He also writes that he’d prefer to avoid sexual readings of his work – he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed – but this piece will be easy to misread. In the end it’s about a power that children don’t have, and in this way the work looks back, conceives in adult terms the space in-between where that which happened was based not on trust but exploitation.