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THESSALONIKI CENTER OF CONTEMPORARY ART/ΚΕΝΤΡΟ ΣΥΓΧΡΟΝΗΣ ΤΕΧΝΗΣ ΘΕΣΣΑΛΟΝΙΚΗΣ
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CACT E-STUDIO

May Caroline

Caroline May was born in Great Britain in 1975. She lives and works in Athens.

 


Multiple readings of reality through photographic lens.

Caroline May’s photography focuses on the issues of identity, gender and sexuality in relation to urban, public space. Caroline May uses her lens to transcribe realistic aspects of daily life in imagery, focusing primarily on the cultural, rather than the aesthetic, aspect of the medium.

May’s photographic compositions consist of portraits which primarily depict male figures, and less commonly architectural structures and natural landscapes. They share as a common attribute the scenery in which they are articulated: public, exterior places, which are inseparable parts of the urban environment. These places are sometimes amusement venues for the denizens of modern big cities, such as city parks or gardens, which surround organized residence buildings in suburban areas; in other cases, they are rural landscapes where remnants of older structures have been found revealing the former presence of organized social centers.

The presence of male subjects is the hallmark of her first work. The 2006 Hustler series, for example, consists of portraits of half-naked men, representing male identity with the use of disguise and hints of sadomasochistic aesthetics, since the models pose with black leather masks hiding their faces. A later work, presented by Caroline May in Athens Photo Festival 2010, features non-staged photographic portraits of men, with London and New York public parks used as background - the models reveal the innate tendency of reproducing pre-constructed norms of masculinity.

Her 2010 photographic series presented at a solo show in The Apartment Athens gallery initiates an innovative conceptual proposal, where male presence is only alluded to. At first sight, these are documentation photographs of the ruins of the Roman Baths of Kyllini - of a meeting point and an entertainment venue for the male population of that society.

In her latest work, Caroline May expands on this form, while also revisiting gender and sexuality and examining various issues relating to the nature of photography as a medium vis-à-vis its ability to depict and construct the truth of an event, highlighting its subjectivity at the same time. Her 2011 The killing pictures series is the product of her multifarious research of archival material related to homophobic murders committed in London public parks during the past decade. During the research stage, the artist collaborated with a volunteer group (the LGBT advisory group –policing watchdog for LGBT people in London), which has been active since 1999 and has cooperated with the New Scotland Yard metropolitan police in solving homophobic murder cases. May’s work was completed at a later phase, when she visited and took pictures of the murder scenes herself.

The viewer, knowing in advance the reality about the deadly cases connected to the depicted places - their tragic nature is clearly revealed by the titles of the work - can imagine the murders, while walking around the exhibition area. Contrary to the scopophilic tendencies found in her previous work, here, May stimulates the imagining capabilities of viewers and makes the latter recall stereotypical, homophobic images, urging them to produce their own version of what happened in each case.

The images, taken from the same angle and printed on b&w film, isolate landscapes, which show no trace of the homicides that took place there. The artist’s only intervention is the recoloring of the photographs, a technique which ends up intensifying the neutrality of the landscapes, leaving them floating in space and time.

 

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