An Arrangement

Photo: of an art installation called An Arrangement
Vancouver City Centre

An Arrangement

By Adad Hannah

Adad Hannah is perhaps best known for his tableau vivant video stills that reimagine historical paintings and sculptures with live actors. With An Arrangement (Polka Dot Case Study) 1, 2, 5, he explores new themes, exchanging the high-production epics for more process-based, in-studio experimentations.

For this new body of work, Hannah made a set of ceramic pots and bowls, then hired a contortionist to pose with them. By photographing the contortionist in a polka-dot bodysuit made of the same material as the plinth and backdrop she appears with, the figure becomes camouflaged so that the ceramics appear to be floating in space. A human form is revealed slowly as the objects recede, generating tension between the seemingly earnest ergonomic studies and the disorienting illusion caused by the repeating polka-dot pattern. The act of looking becomes deliberate, self-conscious, and challenging as the viewer reconciles the fissures between the curves of the contortionist’s figure, the imperfect seams of her suit, and the backdrop.

Through these means, Hannah examines how a photograph can function as a document of something both real and imagined. The photo acts as a destabilizing and whimsical, pseudo-scientific anthropological document, sharing as much in common with Eadweard Muybridge’s and Étienne-Jules Marey’s studies of movement as with many of the early photograms of László Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray, suggesting a surrealist, topsy-turvy, alternate world. In this case, the optical illusion acts as a metaphor for how authenticity is constructed and deconstructed.