Taschenspielertrick, Forum Fur Fotografie,Cologne (solo show) April 2012- June 2012
Clare Strand’s images are conceived, researched, developed and resolved from within a highly unusual and personal sensibility, using a clear and decisive method of production. She belongs to the world of the everyday, yet her images evoke the mesmeric, the talismanic and the unsolvable. Solutions proposing the ordinary reveal further layers of complexity and configure problems as yet un-glimpsed. The hinterland to her image making is provided by a childhood upbringing where a family life in a suburban cul-de-sac was confounded by true crime magazines, ominous supernatural events, a father obsessed by exactitude, Paul Daniels (a famous magician in the UK) on Sunday evening TV and a flasher who lived across the road.
Over the last ten years of exhibiting photographic images and, more recently, objects and films in installation, Strand has scrutinised our ability to read and misread photographic imagery, in the form of forensic evidence, investigations into the paranormal, Parlour Magic and pseudo-scientific experiments. She is questioning, at all times, what is seen and what is hidden; what is imagined and what is perceived, treading at all times the uncertain boundaries between the expected and the absurd.
Taschenspielertrick (“tricks played out of one's pockets”) sees Strand return to the tricks that photography can play.
Five monolithic Photisms of young women occupy one Gallery wall - figures lost in a grey formless cloud. A Photism is described as ‘a luminous image or the appearance of a hallucinatory character.’ Strand has utilised an Aura camera to make the works. Hands are placed on metal sensors to produce a small colour Polaroid which are purported to be indicative of the ethereal soul. Perversely, these Photisms are stripped of their colour, confounding the reading of the Auras and the tracing of the emanations as extolled by the Theosophists and, even more recently, by New Age Psychedelics.
Similarly, in Kirlian Studies, Strand presents us with the Kirlian camera plate intended by its inventor, Seymon Kirlian in 1939, to detect the metaphysical energy of the animate and inanimate. The contradiction presented to us is that there is no authentic pictorial outcome, just the witnessing of the process itself. Strand concentrates on the mechanisms of achieving the image rather than the image itself. More precisely, the Kirlian apparatus is brought to bear on the characteristics of the female subjects in the Photisms (Hair, Tread, Breath).
Strand’s subjects are mostly young women, and mark a return to her preoccupation with adolescent girls and their supposed psychic potency and paranormal magnetism, as often documented in horror movies, paranormal literature and psychology. The uncanny image Aerial Suspension is testament to this, portraying a young woman seemingly floating in mid air, an image that is to be simultaneously believed and disbelieved. Both this image and the ‘Conjuration’ Films allude to trick photography and the visualization of the mysterious, the unseen or the spiritual. Extending the theme of concealment and the intangible, Taschenspielertrick also showcases Strand’s latest work, Skirts, a typology of ten dressed ceremonial or perhaps magicians’ tables.
With all Strand’s work there is a constant questioning of what photography is, what it shows and what it conceals, it’s many practical uses and its numerous limitations. The show Taschenspielertrick envisions a stark monochrome world and describes photography as a highly pervasive and mischievous medium.