Curator Simon Baker, selects his top five artists from the forthcoming Performing for the Camera at the Tate Modern, which runs from 18 February 2016 — 12 June 2016
Nadar (Gaspar-Félix Tournachon)
Nadar (real name Gaspar-Félix Tournachon) was the most successful and best known photographer in nineteenth-century Paris. His studio was such a hang-out for celebrities of the time that it has been likened to Andy Warhol’s Factory. Nadar’s most iconic portraits are of writers like Charles Baudelaire and actresses like Sarah Bernhardt, both of whom look seriously stylish with the moody shadowy look that Nadar perfected. Nadar and his brother Adrien also collaborated with another actor, Charles Deburau, who was well-known at the time for having inherited the role ‘Pierrot’ – the white, sad clown-like character often seen in French pantomime - from his dad. He went to the Nadar studio and mimed a whole series of his trademarked poses ‘surprised’,’laughing’, ‘crying’ and so on…
Francesca Woodman died tragically young, committing suicide at the age of 22. But this didn’t stop her from becoming one of the most innovative and promising artists of her generation. Although most of her work was made when she was little more than a student, she transformed extremely limited and unpromising environments into spaces of fantasy and experimentation. Most of her photographs are of intimate scenes in which she moves and poses her own body, often naked, within empty scruffy spaces that evoke haunted houses, or the dreamscapes of surrealism.
Eikoh Hosoe is the last surviving member of a great generation of Japanese photographers and is described, even by his peers, as ‘sensei’ or ‘master’. Although his work now looks classical and formally beautiful, Hosoe was a ground-breaking artist in his youth, collaborating with the most colourful characters of the 1960s avant-garde. He worked with the writer (and bodybuilder) Yukio Mishima, famous in Japan for having committed ritual suicide after failing to overthrow the government, as well as many more conventional actors and dancers. His best known work was made with the dancer and choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata, who founded the Japanese dance movement, Butoh. Published as a luxury photobook, Kamaitachi refers to a mischievous spirit that the Japanese believe cuts your legs when you walk through long grass in the countryside.
Tokyo Rumando works right at the edge of the slippery boundary between the sexualisation of the female form in Japanese photography and the rising wave of so-called ‘Girlie photographers’ in Japan. Although historically there have been relatively few famous women photographers in Japan, Rumando’s generation have taken over the dark, eroticised imagery associated with the work of male photographers like Nobuyoshi Araki, to produce their own visions of sexuality and intimacy that challenge gender boundaries. Rumando’s work plays fast and loose the clichés of erotic photography through the use of her own body, posed to express both her own fantasies and to suggest those that she imagines projected onto her by others.
Amalia Ulman shot to fame with a spoof delivered through her Instagram account, which fooled both her own followers and art-world critics. Over the course of four months Ulman produced an elaborate performance through Instagram posts, pretending to move to Los Angeles and trying to fit in by having plastic surgery and taking up Californian hobbies. Ulman’s work was a brilliantly convincing version of the celebrity Instagram craze where millions of ‘followers’ apparently seem to care what pop stars and reality TV personalities had for breakfast.
Performing for the Camera is curated by Simon Baker, Senior Curator, Tate Modern with Fiontán Moran, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.