Alex Prager: A discussion on photography, cinema and drama. I live to be entertained.
Sometimes I think that art is just a form of entertainment which exists to be witnessed by an audience. The idea of ‘spectatorship’ is so prominent in photographer Alex Prager’s work. Having only recently discovered her work at the Photographer’s Gallery in London, I was reminded of the inextricable link between theatre and art; even the most silent of installations and chronically boring paintings are produced out of an emotion and a stimulation to be heard, to be seen, to receive a reaction…even if it is for oneself.
Alex Prager is a photographer based in Los Angeles who according to Google results has enjoyed a serious amount of success for a young photographer and film maker. After seeing her work I can understand why she has been widely received positively. I think that what makes human beings the destructive yet compassionate entities that we are, is the ability to imagine and empathise. The images and sets in her work channel these capabilities by creating overly dramatic scenarios with old Hollywood glamour costumes and disturbing soliloquies which blur the lines between the stage and the audience. Photographs and films are very good at being stimulants for the imagination to fester on and the accurate of depiction the camera captures makes it easier for us to understand the environments/scenarios captured. Eminent art historian and connoisseur of all things art criticism related, W.J.T. Mitchell discusses in The Language of Images that film and photography are God like aspirations to reproduce nature. However in Alex Prager’s work, reality is totally blown out of proportion, depicting our worst nightmares or fantasies. I think that it is so important to use the camera to create art that is exaggerated and stretched out of proportion because these tools show how the artist lives in a dimension totally beyond the year of today.
Some of her photographs show crowds of people during rush hour swallowing up public transport in their desperate attempt to get on with their mundane lives. Some scenarios depict extreme tragedies like a house in Nebraska on fire or lots of fat people incapable of swimming drowning in the Pacific Ocean which is probably a gymnasium swimming pool. Theatrical scenarios are accelerated with the use of Hollywood actresses made up with floury foundation and cracked red lips babbling on about how useless they feel in life. It’s weird that the photographs and films are so glamorous but still so trashy. How can the audience not feel absorbed in these images? How can we ignore the apparent entertainment in front of us?
In Notes on Metamodernism, it is discussed that the age of cultivating art today categorised as metamodernisim is akin to a new theory of ‘new romanticisim’ – an easy way to summarise this is to highlight artists’ need to make art for art’s sake – to shake up the world and to believe that there can be some change from even the silliest of art pieces. I find this theory pretty accurate to describe photographs and films which use excessive glaring lights and highly manipulated stages and set ups because the drama engulfs the audience and while it may not make sense (there is no story or direction chronology of events in Alex Prager’s work) the emotions make the art memorable and sensual. Sometimes senseless art is the best; it makes you want more.
Go see her work in a gallery whenever it shows. It gives you tingles.