Zara Bowden '13 - 2012 McKee Photography Grant Recipient
From the beginning of this process, I knew I was interested in examining the complexities of street art and how this unique transformation of space could be enhanced and extended using photography. My initial inspiration came from the works of Gordon Matta-Clark and his use of negative splicing, collage, and physical reconstruction in exploring the transformation of space and more specifically, the portrayal of demolished buildings in his 1974 series, Splitting. His works focus on altering the perception of everyday buildings and their surrounding environments, drawing heavily on the French concept of détournement, or "the reuse of pre-existing artistic elements in a new ensemble."
With this framework in mind, I chose to focus specifically on how sculptural and collage photography can alter the way we respond to street art and its manifestations. How can photography be used to explore and expose the literal and figurative layers street art inherently possesses? Street art impacts and inevitably changes the way we approach everyday spaces and barriers. While walls traditionally serve as blockades separating people from what they enclose, this unique art form draws the viewer in, recreating these foreboding canvases into new, unexplored worlds of shapes, colors, and textures. In a similar vein, I was interested in exploring street art and furthering its transformative power by using sculptural/collage photography to challenge the way we absorb these "tagged" spaces. I wanted to examine the way photography can be used to recreate what we see by transforming my photographs themselves to reflect the transformative innovations of street art.
To me, it seems that a large part of graffiti has to do with recognition. About claiming something as your own. About bringing attention to things generally overlooked and making the statement: “I have been here. See me.” Despite this personal ownership associated with graffiti, however, in many ways I think it also fuses the ideas of individualism and collectivism, establishing a forum for an interactive dialogue between the onlooker and the creator and perhaps even the creation itself. While graffiti, in a way, belongs to the artist who created it, by its nature it also belongs to the world at large – to anyone else who happens by and projects his or her own perspective onto these alien forms. This dual ownership is what makes graffiti unique and what gives it so much life and fluidity.