Considering the symmetry between theater and photography – in both, one enters a black box and an image appears – I aim to make a gesamtkunstwerk – or “total artwork” – examining each aspect of the theatrical experience with deliberate and comprehensive rigor.
CIRCUS - the performer in the spotlight (227 images); 46 American and European circus companies were photographed from the perspective of an anonymous audience member over 9 years of public performances.
CLOWN - the confrontation of the mask (11 images); In the space of one week, working clowns (graduates of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College (1968-1997)) came to the studio for life-sized portraits. Their only instruction was not to smile (redundant to their makeup). This instruction was followed all but once.
STAGE - the spotlights, curtain and proscenium as the show begins or ends (47 images); Working with in-house lighting directors, 23 classical theaters in New York, Pennsylvania, Paris and Versailles were photographed over four years.
LISTEN - an encyclopedic work mapping the landscape or inner architecture of American rock n’roll history and memory (427 images); 403 venues in 89 cities in 26 states over 11 years were identified, contacted, visited and photographed.
I am currently producing ATLAS (OF EMOTION); which considers how emotions look when reflected on an actor’s features, colonizing the surface of their face. The selection of emotions is scientific. The photographs inhabit a space between “portrait” and “landscape” traditions of photography.
Concurrently I am gathering material on the geographical and historical action (or gesture) of APPLAUSE. The project will contain found images and footage as well as my own works of observation. I hope to embed myself with a selected performer or performance over the course of an extended tour.
My goal is, over time, to construct a methodical visual archive or index encompassing these (and subsequent) ideas and elements.
Rhona Bitner is a native New Yorker.
She lives and works between New York City and Paris.
The moments of the past do not remain still, they retain in our memory the motion which drew them toward the future, towards a future which has itself become the past, and draw us on in their train. Marcel Proust