The British School at Rome Photoworks Fellowship 2011
1 April - 30 June 2011
Sian Bonnell questions the role of the photograph in creating fictions as the 2011 Photoworks Senior Research Fellow in photography and lens based media at The British School at Rome.
Sian Bonnell is the 2011 Photoworks Senior Research Fellow in photography and lens based media at The British School at Rome. Her residency will run from April – June 2011. Read Sian's blog here
This is the second biennial Photoworks Fellowship at The British School at Rome. It’s just one of the ways Photoworks is active internationally and one of the many opportunities we offer to emerging and mid-career artists to help develop their practice. This Fellowship offers a period of research time for an artist to explore a specified area of interest. Photoworks will work with the artist to identify future potential opportunities following the residency.
The Fellowship selection follows an open submission call to mid career photographers. Photoworks Head of Projects, Celia Davies, explains, ‘The Fellowship is set up to support photographers practice; to provide a rare and much needed opportunity to create time and space for artists to develop their ideas in a conducive, stimulating and supportive environment. Sian was selected as we felt her proposal fully embraced Rome as a context in which to make new work. In relation to her own artistic enquiry, we could see that this opportunity would really allow Sian to push her practice forward and prove an important juncture in her career.’
Sian says: ‘I will be questioning the role of the photograph in creating fictions, the role of the camera as conduit for the intentions of the photographer and both the visual and written contexts surrounding these,’ says Sian, ‘I’m particularly interested in the role of ‘place’. How the intention of the artist/photographer can be conveyed via a still or moving image transforming an ordinary place into a sinister one or obversely a place of wonder.’
Sian adds, ‘I haven't had the luxury of a prolongued period of time devoted solely to my practice since I was a student (and I know that I wasn't wise in my use of time back then). To be given time to study, travel and make new work is wonderful enough, but to be given three months in Rome is the most amazing opportunity. I know it will allow my work to refine and mature and for this I am so grateful; I will employ it to the fullest.’
The Fellowship was awarded in 2009 to David Spero. Previous resident artists working in photography and lens-based media have included: Richard Billingham, Fiona Crisp, Toby Glanville, Brighid Lowe, Sophy Rickett and Susan Trangmar.
The interview panel for this year’s fellowship comprised: John Gill (Chair); David Chandler, Professor of Photography, University of Plymouth; Celia Davies, Head of Projects Photoworks and Toby Glanville, photographer and former British School at Rome fellow.
An extract of Sian's proposal
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
I have no idea why my mother decided that my sister and I should become catholics but this early experience has in no small way coloured my perceptions ever since.
I have the dubious privilege of being born Church of England but raised a Catholic until the point of first holy communion when my mother decided that she couldn’t go through with it! It was not her who had to endure the catechism, so I am a bit miffed to put it mildly, that from the age of seven, not only have I had to contend with indoctrinated catholic guilt but also an inherited protestant work ethic on top.
One of my earliest memories is of a luminous ‘Arlady’ placed by my side at night and the bedtime worry that my soul (a large white oval table cloth hanging inside me) would always need a jolly good wash. This mixture of the mystical, the absurd and the domestic has been the source for much of my work but it is only now in middle age that I have begun to analyse it.
Summary of Proposal
My current research involves a substantial investigation into belief, fear & anxiety found in communities throughout western Europe. With particular emphasis on folklore, customs, superstitions and old wives tales and the histories surrounding them. I am interested in discovering if these customs and beliefs built on fear, become warped from repeated retellings through the generations. How can we negotiate the fact that we find ourselves believing them whilst knowing that there is no actual truth to them?
This work is a consolidation of the investigations commenced in County Cork two summers ago while I was on a residency in Ireland (two of these images were published in Portfolio issue #50 last year). In this work I depicted traditional superstitions but then began simultaneously to invent new, completely absurd ones. I was intrigued to discover that my fictions were accepted as genuine and believed and I realised the importance that text and language played in this.
In this research I am questioning the role of the photograph in creating fictions, the role of the camera as conduit for the intentions of the photographer and both the visual and written contexts surrounding these.
The work I propose to make in Rome will be a continuation of the above but with emphasis on the inherited myths, traditions and superstitions stemming from the Roman Empire and the early Roman church which form our heritage in Western Europe. I am particularly interested in the role of ‘place’. How can the intention of the artist/photographer be conveyed via a still or moving image which transforms an ordinary place into a sinister one or obversely a place of wonder? I am fascinated by the manmade places created for deities; the grotto, the garden as well as the natural places which have been enlisted as a holy place, such as the grottos of Pertosa in the Cilento.
Read Sian's blog here