“The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation; an apparatus in which the techniques that make it possible to see induce effects of power and in which, conversely, the means of coercion make those on whom they are applied clearly visible.”1
“He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection. By this very fact, the external power may throw off its physical weight; it tends to the non-corporal; and, the more it approaches this limit, the more constant, profound and permanent are its effects: it is a perpetual victory that avoids any physical confrontation and which is always decided in advance.”2
The photographic series, JUNTAS was inspired by Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish. I was extremely captivated by the text that described observation as a means of punishment because of its coercive nature. To me, Foucault’s descriptions of observational strategies used to single out abnormal behavior resembled queer existence within a hetero-normative society. The idea of visibility as linked to vulnerability was a concept that was not foreign to me, however, the idea of observation a forceful normalization mechanism was. The photographs within the series include a book from a series titled UNA. UNA is composed of handmade books. The books within the series are each made up of two individual stacks of paper. In UNA, screws, and handmade metal parts bind the books. The pages within the books contain coded love poems that can be decoded through a decoding guide. The books are joined through a process of interleaving, and due to friction are impossible to separate. The books confront the audiences’ expectations of paper and fragility. However, the friction by which the books cling to each other, can withhold extreme weight, therefore creating a hopeful image of strength and perseverance within same-sex relationships.
JUNTAS further the audience’s understanding of the books within UNA. Through the rereading of Foucault’s text, I decided to photograph Alina and I holding the books. I thought it important to present the tangible bodies and reality on which the series UNA was based. Within the photographs, a parallel is created between the books in UNA and our hands, thus, presenting the audience with a narrative through which to view UNA. I want to express to the audience the bodies behind the artwork. Due to its subtly gendered materials and no obvious indication of same sex references, UNA can have a multitude of understandings to the average viewer. The “queer” materials, motifs and art historical references are not apparent to a viewer that has not obtained an advanced arts education. Therefore, the decision to make the queer elements within the series visible was inspired by the text. Although I agree with Foucault that observation is a form of punishment and has a coercive nature, I chose to remain visible. UNA speaks of perseverance through physics and tangible force, but JUNTAS shows perseverance through visibility and the decision to be simultaneously vulnerable and unapologetic.