Monday, November 2, 2009

Dead Dolls

Righto, well... with a title like this I'll just let rip:

As I'm studying fashion-photography for my thesis, I found myself pouring over old mags today and I happened upon my copy of "Lula",8.
Within these gorgeous covers I saw the 'Doll House'.
It had the same impact on me now, as it did then: FREAKY.
I flipped out over this the first time I saw it... it's so... unsettling.
Heather Benning's Doll House is situated in an isolated Saskatchewan field. Benning replaced one whole wall with plexi-glass, so her viewer can see into the rooms (and that sentence is so "1st year art history student'- but, whatever).
She redecorated the rooms with furniture typical of the 1960's. The entire piece is empty, besides spare furniture and natural lighting. And there-in lies the 'freak-factor'.
Obviously, I can't say what Benning hoped to create with this particular work; all I can share, is the impact it has had on me.
It immediately put me in mind of Victorian Mourning Photography.
I read about this 'Memento Mori' photography at length in 2nd year.
I make no apology for linking the two; to me, they appear completely entwined.
In my reading I found this: A quote from Stanley Burns’ book "Sleeping Beauty: Memorial Photography in America":

"These photographs were a common aspect of American culture, a part of the mourning and memorialization process. Surviving families were proud of these images and hung them in their homes, sent copies to friends and relatives, wore them as lockets or carried them as pocket mirrors. Nineteenth-century Americans knew how to respond to these images. Today there is no culturally normative response to postmortem photographs."

Ummmmmmmm yeah.
Part of me finds these photographs hell freaky, another part of me finds them beautiful and the art student in me finds them interesting. I can vouch for the fact that we don't really take photos of dead-folk here.
And yet - since I first discovered them, I've felt a strange pull towards these pictures. I can kind of understand the wish of the living to keep the departed close and 'alive'.
I'd like to send them all home to Heather Benning's empty doll's house.

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