UNCERTAIN STATES/ OPEN CALL: ISSUE 21
Jury Selection - Ángel Luis González Fernández (founder of PhotoIreland)
Other than the edifice it is built upon, what can be called authentic when experiencing an event for which all circumstances have been prearranged and agreed? Or are we to draw some truth from these staged episodes in so far as they perform as a collaborative means of catharsis?
Continuing on from his previous project ‘The Conversation’, 'Under the Influence' distils Dominic Hawgoods examination and documentation of the performance and ritual of religious ceremonies in which an altered state of consciousness is key to the role players, and essential to how meaning is transmitted and interpreted. It is an interest that sees a clear source in his well-received thesis 'The Therapeutic Real', written as part of the MA in photography at the Royal College of Art, London.
In ‘The Conversation’ the characters he engaged with interact directly with God via otherworldly vocabularies and are represented to us still, on ecstasy, intriguingly placed in a mundane unplaceable scenario that adds a disquieting stress to the images. In 'Under the Influence', Dominic deals again with such sublime enactments, though this time those of a more communal nature, reviewing a stated personal interest in “trends within evangelical Christianity popular amongst African communities in London”. The project explores the melodramatic practice of deliverance, the ministerial riddance of demons, evil spirits, and even physical torment. These are acts of purification performed during a collective ceremony through a series of elaborate routines intended to sustain a constant sense of joy. They formulate an alphabet of ecstatic gestures that define the shared ritualistic vocabulary.
Dispensing with a straight documentary approach, his work once again is offered to us in a carefully studied manner, as is the case with ‘The Conversation’: unashamedly staged to underline perhaps the very same issue in discussion, that there can not be authenticity when re-presenting such experiences, and that Photography is pure artifice in itself.
Bringing his examination further in this his latest project, the theatrical lexicon of such religious performances has become cunningly encapsulated within two separate visual strategies: on one hand representing ‘that which influences’, openly appropriating a highly stylised, colourful, and saturated approach, and on the other hand ‘that which is influenced’, describing the experience of the end user through a monotonal series of images. Here again, the background, the scenario remains unobtrusive.
Dominic’s work is distinct, personal, and intentionally honest. While questioning the subject matter and discussing Photography itself, in this project he is able to abstract key elements of the formulaic religious performance, offering the viewer a set of pleasingly strong images, beautiful and enigmatic – and lets not forget it is images we are under the influence of.
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DOMINIC HAWGOOD, 2016