Shooting pictures – material cultures in a material existence

This week has been a strange week. Work wise, I have accomplished so much and am enjoying my placement immensely – I went on location for a film shoot for the first time which was pretty exciting!

Emotionally though, I think London is getting me down. I’m finding the people here hard work, particularly when I feel like the only one smiling. Everyone is one mission to get to where they want to be, either on the tube or on the career ladder. I miss the sense of community and randomness that Brighton had. Upon reflection I realise my squirmy London emotions stem from the combination of working/trying to get into the cut-throat media industry, impending graduation and a full moon.

While I’m convinced my outlook will change next week, I wanted to write a post that hinted at the complexities that I am currently facing. On a magazine hunt this afternoon I wandered over to the Tate Modern, where I decided that for once, I wasn’t going to rant like a pubescent panda-eyed girl struck down with ladytrouble. Instead, I was going to wander around the gallery and pick a work that summed up this week’s feelings, without pretentiously ranting about myself.

The work I chose was ‘Shooting picture’ by Niki de Saint Phalle.


At the first glance it looks like paint thrown at papier mache – a predictable and uninspiring combiation. But on a closer inspection of the gritty yet pourus bedrock, you realise that the paint is dribbling from the crevices from within the frame, like multicoloured blood dribbling out of an open wound.

The artist’s technique? She enclosed paint parcels inside these papier-mache domes – but the paintings soul could only be released when someone shot at it – hence the title Shooting picture. Shooting something – be it a photograph, a film, or with a gun – is seen as a masculine job. It is aggressive and violent, but immensely satisfying when executed correctly. This particular work was shot by artists Robert Raushenberg and Jasper Johns, so the added element of the celebrity that gracing it’s presence will undoubtedly make the work more popular. Saint Phalle made many of these pictures but stopped making them after a few years, saying: “I had become addicted to shooting, like one becomes addicted to a drug.”

The more I think about this painting the more I find it as a resolution to the comatose state I’m trying to resist. It’s playful, methodical in is construction and harmless at first, yet the deeper you delve into it the more you realise the horror and brutality behind it’s beauty. Yet once you look at it, you will find yourself impossible to turn away.


2 thoughts on “Shooting pictures – material cultures in a material existence

  1. I have for some time, and still do have a desire to live in London as I love its culture and tempo. I visit as much as I can, to gain visual inspiration and enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere. However there is a difference between visiting for pleasure, and being part of the daily slog: people have suggested to me that it wouldn’t be quite so much fun being there all the time, so I can understand your predicament.

    However, you have been there a short while yet: I’m sure you will gravitate toward some friendly sorts given time.

    I like the piece you have chosen: I’ve not seen something created in this way before. Do you really feel like an open wound? I’d patch you up with a nice bit of cake if I could 🙂

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