Artist’s Notebook:
Elizabeth Valleau

February 4, 2013 | Marina Galperina

ANIMAL’s feature Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original idea sketch next to a finished piece. This week, Elizabeth Valleau shows us the inspirations for her stereoscopic 3D portraits created for a private booth.

The piece itself is a series of stereoscopic 3D portraits of these archetype explorations. The subjects hold very still and engage with the unseen viewer as strongly and directly as possible. While settling on the characters, I used a crude inspiration process of these marked-up photos and art direction references.

The original inspiration for The Viewer actually came from a prank I used to play, asking folks to pose for a still photograph, but I would take video of them instead. It was actually kind of moving in many cases. The subjects would make very frank and direct eye contact with the camera, and then grow more and more vulnerable as the shot progressed.

I wanted to build something that was about that exchange of gazes, and meant to raise questions about who is actually being objectified — the recorded subjects, or the audience imagined by the subjects.

I based the characters on archetypes that interested me – mythological creatures, demons, pinups, wizards and queens. Some were ‘cast’, some were inspired by people I already knew. One friend has long, long fingers and hair — I imagined her as a terrifying witch. Another has an elegant, masculine beauty and I posed him as a sullen, wry George Sand type with two cravats and bare feet.

We discussed the characters together, I built the sets and costumes. They sat and made constant eye contact with the two eyes of the stereoscopic camera for as long as they could. I would sit with them, but behind the camera – out of eyeline. When exertion or emotional strain got the better of them, they dropped the pose and the session was done.

The final piece is very intimate. I’ve constructed a black-out chamber, with a small bench, a remote control and a large stereoscopic 3D monitor. The viewer enters the room, puts on the glasses and spends time with the subjects on the screen, switching through the feeds like a peep show. Ultimately it’s both an aesthetic pleasure, as well as a moment of simulated intimacy with the subjects.

The Viewer is an experience of remote voyeurism. It stretches the thread between object and observer, between time and space, encouraging both parties to confront their notions of objectification. It’s prurient time travel – a conversation that can never be fully completed.

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