Experiment For Myself As Other (1979)
American artist Kim Abeles (b 1952) utilizes photography, installation, and artist’s books to explore social issues including feminism and gender, HIV/AIDS, and urban environmental threats. Through her Conceptual work, such as Experiment for Myself as Other, she also delves into self-referential themes, examining notions of agency, subject, and the relative nature of representation. In a statement Abeles enumerates: “I typically approach social issues through "portraits" of individuals transformed into broader themes; or, I create sculptural contraptions to collect visual or auditory data over an extended period of time. In both cases, the collected "facts" become elements from which I create artworks, and the process itself is materialized."
In Experiment for Myself as Other Abeles used the self-portrait as a means to collect visual “data” and represent her “process itself.” Abeles photographed this self-portrait series by striking the camera shutter release with various implements listed on the book’s opening page, including a yardstick, kiln tongs, a roll of fabric and a pulley system. The results of these experiments are displayed in groups of three, some trials resulting in more successful portraits than others. However even the photos in which Abeles’ face is obscured by her hand or a broomstick are included as documents of process. The title of the book stems from the fact that Abeles is acting as both photographer and subject. She executes self-portraits through the mechanical lens of the camera, exploring questions of agency and the viewer’s gaze by becoming both director and performer. Additionally, in her preface Abeles includes a sentence in active tense that she then restates in passive tense, emphasizing the duality of her role in Experiment for Myself as Other.Her identity is pluralized through this process, highlighting the subjectivity of identity and resisting the essentializing views often imposed on women.
Essay by Stephanie Tallering '12