Ryan Linkoff. Q&A w/ Ken Gonzales-Day.
LACMA UNFRAMED, 19 Oct. 2011, Los Angeles.
“In anticipation of photographer Ken Gonzales-Day’s lecture on Edward Kienholz’s Five Car Stud this Sunday, we sat down with the recent Photographic Arts Council (PAC) Prize–winner to discuss his work—including Profiled, his 2011 PAC Prize publication—and how it relates to the politically engaged Five Car Stud. In Profiled, Gonzales-Day examines the construction of Western ideas of race and identity from antiquity through the twentieth century by photographing portrait busts. Though the busts themselves are very much relics of previous centuries, Profiled is as much about the present as it is about the past, providing a new perspective on what it means to be profiled in our own time.
What was it about the sculptural bust—perhaps the most unfashionable form of portraiture in contemporary art—that you found so interesting? What did you think you would discover by photographing these sculptures?
While in residence at the Getty Research Institute in 2008, I would see visitors walk past the portrait busts with hardly a passing glance. I wondered why these works had become so illegible to contemporary audiences that they scarcely saw them. At the time, I was doing research on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts dealing with race, as well as texts that included racial depictions. In Profiled, I wanted to try to trace the emergence of racial categories themselves as a scientific “fact.” I had hoped that photographing the busts might give me a new perspective on the research and perhaps provide some new insights that I had missed in the more academic research. I was looking for little clues that pointed to the ideological underpinnings of the work. I wondered what ideas influenced the artists or had driven the commissions in the first place…”
Source: LACMA Unframed