The Dissolving Man

Master of Fine Art, Monash University 2009

This project derives from an interest in the cultural expressions of entropy and disorder and how these might be applied to representations of the male face.

Entropy describes the gradual running down of systems into disordered states, and though it originates in physics it is often applied, in a metaphorical vein, to cultural subjects. My intention with this work is to show the male face, and by extension masculinity itself, as something undermined, in a process of disorder, declining from an earlier state of coherence or integration.

The exhibition presents two related projects, a series of colour photographs called Big Heads, and a video project called The Dissolving Man, which gives its name to the exhibition.

BIG HEADS comprises large colour photographs of action-hero toys. These objects are directed at young boys and express a range of masculine notions: aggressiveness, certainty, physical strength, willpower; they are a useful subject for a study of gender values. My intention was to undermine their certainty and turn their gaze inward. They were photographed with careful lighting and soft focus to subvert the confident, wilful expressions and render them doubting and uncertain, lost in their troubled thoughts.

THE DISSOLVING MAN is a three-screen video work comprising close-ups of actors taken from feature films and shows men in contemplation during moments of stillness in the narrative. The characters’ motivations are varied but in their totality they convey a sense of men in trouble, experiencing doubt and worry. These scenarios are often condensed into brief passages of intense feeling, “sublime moments”, where the viewer and the screen become one. The close-up is the element of film syntax where the viewer gains the deepest access to a character’s thoughts; time stops still as we gaze into the actor’s eyes and attempt to read his thoughts.

The ancient Greeks defined as anagnorisis that moment in a play when the hero has a sudden realisation, where the implication of events is understood. The characters in both of these projects are captured in this moment, their faces reflecting the interior struggle with difficult thoughts.


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