Copy / Cut / Paste

Copy / Cut / Paste (2017-2020) Digital Photograph

Copy / Cut / Paste is a body of work that represents the culmination of  ‘Opening the Wig’ – a practice-led research project encompassing three series of work: ‘Wigs’ (2012 – 14), ‘Penetralia’ (2015) and ‘Copy / Cut / Paste’ (2017 – 2020). These projects, collected together as ‘Opening the Wig’ position both the wig and the photograph as multi-layered, unstable and porous things.

My interest in wigs started by realising that they have the ability to destabilise the integrity of the body in a way that other things worn on the body do not, they sit somewhere between a garment, and a prosthetic. They are not purely medical, performative or cosmetic, they are all of these things, yet do not quite fit in to any one of these categories. They exist in the space between, which makes them very ontologically fluid. There is a kind of in-betweeness about the wig, particularly in its status as an object. For example, it is a non-human artefact, but it is often made from the detritus of a human body; and made to look like part of the body. And, even before you do anything to (or with) a wig, its use raises questions about authenticity and artificiality. The wig’s edges are blurred – it is a boundary transgressor, a liminal thing. Its detachability and the ease with which it can aid the slippage between different appearances for the wearer demonstrates how easily it problematises the edges of the body and the self, and reveals how fragile the relationship between appearance and identity is as a construct.

The photograph, like the wig, is a complex object, and their material forms belie their complicated natures. Wigs and photographs are both objects with surface appeal, they function through their surfaces, which might imply they are concealing nothing in themselves, in other words, there is nothing of interest beyond or below their surface. However, when these surfaces are cut, folded, or reshaped, then layers, depth and space can be implied. This shifts the photographs of wigs (and the wigs in the photographs) that I make into unstable and mysterious states; away from the social aspects of wig wearing and the rational space of ordinary objects to a more ambiguous and imaginative space where, intertwined with photography, a wig becomes a mysterious and independent ‘thing’.

By investigating the potentiality of depths and layers I am implying that wig and photographic surfaces have a kind of interiority. This is not in order to imply a surface/depth dualism, rather, it is a method I have deployed to suggest that the surfaces of both have substance and vitality, especially when they converge as they do in my final body of work ‘Copy / Cut / Paste’.

Through my practice I have got under the skin of the photographic print (and by association the wig) and given them corporeal overtones. This bodily association evokes in both an uncanny physicality which destabilises our response to them. I started by exploring the wig as a social object, and over the duration of this research project it has transformed from a material object to an image, a representation, a dematerialised collection of porous matter, to something uncanny and corporeal; it has ended up still visible as a wig but one that represents the more complex relationships we have with objects. In many ways the wigs at the centre of this exhibition have become unwearable – we may now perceive them as independent forces that have the capability to look back and make us feel strange.

Installation shots, Grosvenor Gallery, Manchester School of Art (MMU) March 2020

Copy / Cut / Paste 2017