janet grau

miss perception

miss perception

Performance, installation, 1999

In the large courtyard of the historic fortress (Museum Festung Dresden), two performance spaces emerge – a balcony with arched windows where I stand, and an area below with a stainless steel table that is blocked by a railing and tape. White curtains in the balcony window serve as a ‘screen’ for the shadow images I create with each flash. Clotheslines define the space between myself and the audience, where the light travels to reveal the images.

The performance begins with periodic flashes of a strong white light projecting exaggerated silhouettes of me in playful poses behind the curtains. Each flash is accompanied by a Polaroid photo of my naked body, which I attach to a pulley clothesline. As the 70 or so photos travel above the audience to the table below, spotlights illuminate the images and the transport system, emphasizing the role of light in visual perception.

Upon reaching the table, the photographs lie inert, waiting to be seen. A change in the lighting signals attention to the second performance space, still roped off. An assistant prepares refreshments and then cuts the tape. The audience can begin to explore the images on the table. Some leave, perhaps assuming the performance to be over, while others approach and become co-performers, arranging and discussing the photographs.

The audience’s reactions, including early departures, are in keeping with the work’s conceptual precepts. To truly perceive the ‘desired object’ (me, the female body), the audience must assemble and process the various images. This unpredictable process reflects the potential for misperception and apperception that is integral to the overall perceptual experience.

This work was part of the group exhibition, Licht (Light), organized by the Neuer Sächsischer Kunstverein, at the Festung Museum Dresden.

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