Installation view of "Anthology of Trends", April 11 - May 24, 2009

Tarrah Krajnak & Wilka Roig

Anthology of Trends

April 11 – May 24, 2009

(untitled #) is our  first collaborative project.

It began as a response to a critique of our independent work given by an influential artist/critic/curator based in NYC. During separate studio visits we each received the same response: “As with most women who turn the camera on themselves, the work is overburdened with emotion.” This critique sent us on a search for our place as artists and individuals within the art world and within photographic history. What was originally a visual investigation became “(untitled #)“.

“(untitled # )” is composed of several interrelated series: “Hysteria Collection”, “Pose Archive”, “Anthology of Trends”, “Personal Catalogue”, “Studies of Light and Form”, “Cast of Characters”, “Referential Index”, and “Aftermath”. Each segment of this project is a layer that further uncovers its meaning. The project is rooted in the language of the archive and the dialectic of performance. We enact and record a deconstructive visual analysis, shifting our scrutiny from art institution to artist to art object to audience. Through our performances we offer a perspective from each of these positions as well as the opportunity to reconsider them. We expose the rhetoric underlying representational strategies and question their relationship to history and contemporary culture. We invite the viewer to assess, not merely consume, the motifs recurring in contemporary art, its framework, and its presentation.

In “Hysteria Collection” we look back to the beginnings of the representation of women, to the constructed documentation of the sick Victorian woman.  This simulated hysterical condition and the constructed image of the sickly woman was devised to prove an invented feminine affliction. We perform the hysterical body drawn from its historical context and place it in a contemporary context to resurface the historical reference as well as uncover the formulas that yield the recurring contemporary images of women.

In “Anthology of Trends” we perform the contemporary trends we find in the representation of women by other women, and we exchange roles as photographer and model.  We present each trend in diptychs, with each of us being model in turn to prevent the viewer from consuming the image at face value. This doubling creates a literal double-take and encourages the viewer to think twice about the conditions and the context in which the woman’s body is positioned and presented beyond the traditional aesthetics of light and form.

In “Light and Form”, inspired by technical trends and camera user manuals of the 1970’s and 1980’s, we consider trends of photographic technique that have been used throughout photographic history as justification for, or distraction from, the objectified representation of women by men. In donning the unitard, we seek to neutralize the female form as a point of sexual desire. Employing Photoshop, we mimic the visual styling of images from this period including soft focus, hand coloring, airbrush, and the application of Vaseline around the edges.

As “collaborative / women / minority” artists, we continuously explore the sameness and difference within the construct of identity, and the role and meaning of signifiers. We work with self-portraiture addressing issues of gender, body, and representation within various sociological contexts, engaged in the process of photography as performance. We investigate the role and identity of the artist, and that of photography, within the socio-cultural context and the art world.

Tarrah Krajnak was born in Lima, Peru.  Adopted by Czech-American parents, she grew up in Ohio. In 2004, Tarrah received an MFA in Photography from the University of Notre Dame, and she is now based in Winooski, Vermont, where she teaches Photography in the Art Department at the University of Vermont, Burlington. Wilka Roig was born and raised in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. She moved to Ithaca, New York in 1995 and received her MFA in Photography from Cornell University in 2005. Wilka still lives in Ithaca, where she teaches Photography in the Department of Art at Cornell University.

Collaboratively, they have exhibited nationally at such venues as The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; San Francisco Camerawork; the Pingyao International Photography Festival, China; and at the galleries at Johnson State College in VT, the University of Toledo in OH, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and the University of Oklahoma in Norman, OK.  In 2008, they were recipients of artists grants from the Vermont Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Cornell Council for the Arts. Tarrah and Wilka were artists-in residence at CPW in 2008.