For this exercise we are asked to reflect on several questions regarding the works of Elina Brotherus.
How do these images make you feel?
Overall I feel the images lend a sense of empathy to the subject. The collective works document a very personal journey for the artist and with the combination of isolated portraits highlighting the lack of ‘another’ and close up portraits tying the viewer to the portrait subject the viewer is drawn in to the narrative. Individually the images have different effects, some uncomfortable, the extreme closeness of an obviously upset subject, the ‘behind closed doors’ sense of being the medication, bruises and normally private moments associated with the process of IVF treatment. Some images have a sense of familiarity, the small details of the artists home and life that have shared experience such as the rubber ducks on the bath nd the appreciation of the cherry blossom. I also have a personal sense of nostalgia from the images in New York a place I spent two months and the image of Coney Island Cyclone reminds me of the time I spent there and the connotations its brings of family fun and enjoyment.
Do you think there’s an element of narcissism or self-indulgence in focusing on your own identity in this way?
In the way we see here, I don’t believe there is an element of narcissism. Narcissism for me is more a practice of presenting the best possible version of yourself to the world, believing you are superior in some way. Here we see the artist at the most vulnerable, sharing her perceived failures and fragility. There can be a slight sense of self indulgence to vulnerable works, but I don’t believe that is necessarily a bad thing. Self-indulgence depends mostly on the purpose and proliferation of the act. I feel that using the arts to discover, understand, validate or process your feelings is a useful and effective tool. Creating something meaningful from a negative experience or emotion can be an uplifting and positive experience, I do however feel that an individual becomes dependant on the validation associated with sharing these works then it can become self-indulgent, limiting yourself or restricting yourself to reliving and wallowing in a frame of mind purely to receive the validation.
In both Woodman’s and Brotherus’s work we see collection of challenging and difficult works but we also see development of those times, breaks from those thoughts and themes of acceptance which separates them from self-indulgence.
What is the significance of Brotherus’s nakedness?
Nakedness within these images I feel signifies the artists vulnerability, not only in that she is showing us typical unseen processes and emotions but also her own vulnerability at having her desire to have children in hands of the IVF treatment. Theres also the sense that nakedness signifies truth, the removal of our outer persona to show us unhindered by societal norms such as fashion and perception. Finally I feel that Brotherus’s nakedness refers to nature and the instinct to procreate. One of the most inherent purposes of humanity since before the advent of fashion.
Can such images ‘work’ without the accompanying text?
I believe that Brotherus has created a strong set of images with a coherent narrative which does an excellent job of communicating the theme of the set. The internal context of the images work very well with each frame containing reference to the theme, the discarded packaging, the blood in the toilet bowl, the drugs, pregnancy test and the isolation of the subject in most images all build to subtly tell a story. I do however believe that the text heightens the experience by communicating the sense of urgency and loss that Brotherus felt around the possibility and eventual end of her treatment. Also the text widens the appeal of the theme, a subject I can only assume would be more apparent to female viewers due to their own personal experiences, which a male could only experience vicariously and therefore miss the subtleties involved in this project.
Do you think any of these artists are also addressing the wider issues beyond the purely personal?
With work as personal as Woodman’s, Brotherus and Wearing it is easy to say that no, they don’t address the wider issues. I do however believe that in the sharing of stories so personal that they actually create a point of commonality that can unite the viewer with the wider issues. Facts and figures which support a wider issue are very good at condensing an idea down to its fundamentals but it is in the personal experience that we build empathy with the subject matter and for those with similar experiences it will be the relatability of the work that has the most impact.
Elina Brotherus (2020) In: Wikipedia. At: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Elina_Brotherus&oldid=963037032(Accessed 09/07/2020).Elina Brotherus (s.d.) At: https://martinasbaek.com/artists/elina-brotherus/ (Accessed 09/07/2020).Elina Brotherus | Prix Elysée (s.d.) At: http://prixelysee.ch/en/nomine/elina-brotherus/ (Accessed 09/07/2020).Elina Brotherus – 98 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy (s.d.) At: https://www.artsy.net/artist/elina-brotherus (Accessed 09/07/2020).Elina Brotherus – Artist’s Profile – The Saatchi Gallery (s.d.) At: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/elina_brotherus.htm (Accessed 09/07/2020).Elina Brotherus, I’ve been meaning to ask you… (2020) At: https://www.bjp-online.com/2020/05/elina-brotherus-pixy-liao-ive-been-meaning-to-ask-you/ (Accessed 09/07/2020).Photography (s.d.) At: http://www.elinabrotherus.com/photography (Accessed 09/07/2020).SELF-INDULGENCE | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary (s.d.) At: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/self-indulgence (Accessed 09/07/2020).