“O snake, you are an argument for poetry.”
Margaret Atwood. 1983.

Belfast Exposed are delighted to present Snake by Clare Strand, a new body of work based on a selection of images sourced from the artist’s extensive personal archive, some of which was recently published as Girl Plays with Snake by MACK Books, London.

Here, Strand presents the work for the first time as an experimental mixed media installation of photography, text and technology, colluding within the gallery space.

Snake takes its starting point from Strand’s ongoing engagement with the scrapbooks, magazines and photographs, which she has been drawing together since her mid-teens. These include an uncategorised overview of the utilitarian uses of photography, from recording crime to documenting picket fences. The vast array of image types included in Strand’s collection is as diverse as instructional mechanics or the structure of living organisms.

On the collection of snake images included here, Strand remarks, “I have always hated snakes but when I found an image of one I would cut it out and stick it into my scrapbook then hide it away. It strikes me as rather perverse to collect what I despise”

The seven large-scale framed photographic works reflect upon this part of Strand’s collection. Each photograph reveals a magnified fragment of an original image, showing a women holding and gazing fondly at her snake. The laughing women appear to have a command and firm grip on these creatures, presenting expressions of power, control and a possible striking of power balance.

The relationship between snakes and women has a long history, which Strand acknowledges through her discussion on the work. “The snake has been the subject of allegory and metaphor since biblical times, signifying eternity when holding its own tail; suggesting cunning and temptation to Eve; the agent of suicide for Cleopatra, and even the symbol of health and healing in the rod of Asclepius, the god of medicine. The snake can represent both good and evil, wisdom and cunning, rejuvenation and death, and, of course, sexuality and the phallus. Being engaged with photography for the last 20 years, it felt the right time politically and personally, to start working with these images"

Using the written stories on the back of the collected press images and entering them on to online automatic poetry generators, Strand has created her own poetic compositions, which are then boldly screen-printed over the top of the snake women. The result is an overt and graphic interplay between text and image. Alongside the framed works, another automatic poetry generator, constructed for this exhibition, is projected onto the walls of the gallery, creating new random arrangements of Strand’s poems. The automatic text is printed out as a snaking ticker tape for the audience to tear off and take away.