Uncertain Subjects Part II, III and IV: Action Photographs, an Introduction

Installation and removal of Uncertain Subjects at the Brighton Photo Biennial

Uncertain Subjects Part II, Part III and Part IV explored new forms of materialising and temporalizing photographic practice by, for the first time, bringing together the material encounter of photographic images in the shape of ‘action photographs’ with a series of live billboard performances in the public realm. It subverted the tools used by the public leave campaign, deploying the language of advertising to reconsider established positions surrounding identity, nationhood and democracy.

Infiltrating the public sphere first in London, then in Brighton and Newcastle, a single billboard site was constantly covered and recovered with new billboard images ina continuous live-performance. The work consciously employs the traditional 12-sheet paper poster, where twelve sections of an image are skilfully tiled together by a billboard worker to form a continuous whole. Using this labour intensive process performatively, here each photographic portrait gradually covers the next, each individual experience covering up the next to end up with a thick layer of silenced positions at the conclusion of the performance. Set against the background of the ubiquitous encounter of networked images and their immediacy, these action photographsexpand the mediumthrough the production and performance of the photograph as a live event in the public realm, re-configuring the encounter with the photographic image into both a time-based and a material experience. 

Each subject was photographed in their home environment with bare shoulders.  As with the mail-art project, each of the billboards included a head and shoulder photograph of the subject, their name, profession, number of children, with the addition of a personal statement that represented their position in respect of the current political situation. In this sense the work started to bear testimony to a country that is undergoing fundamental ideological and demographic changes.