IN ABSENTIA – A RE-PRESENTATION OF THE PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT
It is the awareness of the death of an individual that creates a tangible sense of absence in the photographic portraits that have been constructed for the series In Absentia (2011 - 2012). At the start of this project, the images were single representations of a moment in time that had led to an individual’s death. This project used death as a strategy to construct images that gives symbolic clues or traces to associate it with the manner in which the subject died and represents the lived presence of the individual’s identity amidst material possessions.
It is important to mention that the artist wasn't necessarily interested in exploring the concept of death; her work was, rather, inspired by artists like Duane Michals and Francesca Woodman and the manner in which they dealt with these themes in their work. Michals stated that the artist had to go beyond what the camera lens sees in order to deal with phenomena such as chance and death. Van Vuuren states that “this challenged me to describe the physical appearance of the spaces around me in a similar fashion. My aim was to describe the invisible and intangible world within my imagination.”
The images are constructed stories that are used to express / represent the artist’s immediate environment. Van Vuuren only used personal objects and relevant locations in order to stay as true to her experienced reality as was possible. The creation of this fictional world, therefore, deals with issues that concerned the artist directly. These portraits can be read as an artistic rebellion against the traditional criteria for a photographic portrait – it creates an artificial world with the sitter absent and it includes themes such as death and various outsiders. These outsiders function as the catalysts of an expanded personal portrait since the spaces we inhabit and the objects we place within these spaces suggest who we are.