Option 2 substitute element, project 2 narrative

This is my ‘vegetarian+dairy’ substitute from Option 2 for the ‘meat’ element of Option 1, and I have focused more on the narrative component than the appropriation.

The task requires an underlying story that resonates with you (me), and in this instance I am using one I wrote a few years ago. It is a twelve element manifesto written by a hostage, probably female, to the hostage-taker, probably male, and the scene is drawn from those terrible tales we hear from time to time of a man keeping a child or a woman for years in a room in his house while carrying on an otherwise apparently normal life. The imprisoned victim is almost always sexually abused.

The materials I’ve chosen are relatively fragile and associated with script, in this case A4 parchment paper; and I have layered painted and unpainted, collaged, and water-soaked sheets in a reflection of the layers of subterfuge necessary to maintain the dreadful deceit. The text is printed using several different kinds and sizes of handwriting font and printed using a Canon inkjet printer. The ink from this would dissolve in water and run into whatever other medium I chose to apply.

The appropriation element is present in the collaged and painted-over images of floor plans, doors, stairs, and bolts. Some of these are torn to represent the shredding of dignity and identity that prisoners of people like this often experience.

At the time of writing, nothing has been glued in place – it’s held there by its own fragility when soaked, or by underlying paint. This may change, or I may re-photograph the changes the set makes to itself by losing parts of its own identity.

First palette and parchment experiment. I used biro to apply text before thinking of printing it instead.
This is warped by the water and the two sheets of parchment are barely staying together, which may be a reflection of the effort it must take to maintain the double life of a hostage keeper. The writing in capitals is less a title and more a declaration of the image’s place in the series.
Here, the bolt overrides everything else in the image which, itself, shows deep divisions between the clean, clear upper room in the centre and a smaller, darker room some distance away at the top left. These elements are collaged prints of photos and again, they are held by water and paint.
This is the floor plan with hints of ordinary life in some rooms and stairs leading to the full manifesto originating in the basement prison. That room is sly not only because its owner is not telling the truth to the outside world about its occupant, but because the occupant has found a way to use the kidnapper’s own method of control against them and expects neither to survive.
Doors are everyone’s portal to another world – the kitchen, the bathroom, the garden, a theatre, gallery, or science lab. The doors here are collaged with water, closed – apart from one which has no colour and may be a ghost, a wish not yet materialised. During the drying process, one piece of folded paper featuring three doors, fell off, leaving an imprint – more ghosts perhaps – and so I repositioned them using a paint smear, hanging them off the painting where they could now represent either open doors or a new staircase.
This fragile and fragmented image with two doors standing separated by indeterminate texture embodies, I think, the outcome of the victim’s actions whereby the edifice of secrecy, deceit, capture, and imprisonment is blown apart. This is a single sheet print of the image above – diffuse and ill-defined but with two of the collaged doors adopted by the paper itself from the primary painting.

The project asks for ten paintings but I think these five are enough for the text. Any more would, I believe, dilute the story that drives them, as a project it feels complete, and one of the essentials I learned from writing that I’ve found difficult to apply to painting, is to know when to stop.

These are very simple and they were quick to produce which meant very little tinkering from me. I know if I spend any longer with them or with the series, I will become gradually more heavy handed and paint the life out of them.

This is the full text of the short story:

Five things that are true and six that are not.

  1. You said I would never want for anything. This is untrue – I want for a great deal.
  2. You said I would never have to ask for anything – you would give me everything I need. You forget that you made asking impossible so this is not true either.
  3. You said you could not imagine being without me. This is true. You have not had to imagine this for some time.
  4. You took my silence as consent but this is another untruth. [See #2 above].
  5. You made a vessel of my body and told me it was worship but you are an atheist.
  6. You hid me from the world and told the world I had left. Another untruth.
  7. I would give something back but you have cleaned me thoroughly, and anyway I only had what you gave me in the first place.
  8. Because of #7 above I must be more inventive.
  9. I have a lot of time between your visits and I have found the device you used to teach me how to demonstrate my devotion.
  10. Items #7, #8, and #9 are all true, as is item #11 below.
  11. I have charged the device and adjusted its settings for maximum effect and I have placed it somewhere especially private for the next time you come down here to show your love for me.
  12. You said we would be together forever. This is not true yet but see #11 above.

Suzanne Conboy-Hill, published as an audio file in 2014 and available on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/fishbits/five-things-that-are-true-and-six-that-are-not. Accessed 5th January 2022.

5th January. Post script: very little moved overnight although the feel of all the pieces is one of fragility and temporariness. The following photos were taken today in natural light.

I get a little further with Filmora Pro each time, but usually have to start off in Filmora 10! This is the product largely of Filmora 10 with some minor but relevant adjustments in Filmora Pro.

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