“Pieter Hugo and I had been in a relationship for a while when this photo (Julia Clark 2001/09) was taken. By this stage it was taking strain. He had just bought his first large format camera and wanted to do some test shots. I had assumed they would be kept private but, of course, in time they came to seen by friends in passing. The casualness of it all upset me. I realised, albeit too late, that in wanting to please I had reluctantly performed the artist’s model and foolishly relinquished control over privacy. I had a very specific memory that I had been wearing a teal blue woollen skirt, and that I had felt odd, vulnerable, grumpy and resistant to taking my top off. I’ve often gone back to the emotional memory of this event when looking at photographs. I often project this memory of awkwardness and resistance onto images of sitters, not only nude ones. I look for a certain look in the eye - one of slight confusion and self-consciousness.
When planning this show, I decided to act on a nagging desire to see these images and rectify my frustration with myself. Pieter agreed to dig them out. We met in a coffee shop. It was rather odd. When I held the slides up to the light I was shocked to see that I had had a completely false memory of the occasion. I wasn’t wearing that skirt at all - I had willingly stripped down even further and I looked rather calm, even amused. I search my memory banks to make sense of this image. No recall. I felt disembodied, separated from my sense of self.
Pieter and I agreed that this particular shot was an image worthy of exhibition and he decided to print it at the same scale as his current portrait work. Even though I still look like that person in the image, the only part of it that I can really identify with is the patch of eczema on the inside of my arm. This little patch seems real - it reveals the stress I was under at the time - the rest is the pose a staged performance. As an act, the revival and “publishing” of this photograph seeks to explore and rectify my false memory, and sense of loss of control. Aesthetically pleasing, it has become an interesting relic of the beginning of a prominent career and the demise of a relationship.”1
1. Julia Rosa Clark (April/May 2009) Initial proposal notes (12 September 2008), Cape Town: WHATIFTHEWORLD.
WHATIFTHEWORLD, Cape Town, Sing into my Mouth, 5 to 23 May, 2009.