About

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 three 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
2018



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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