Master Media Design: Lens-Based


Sigrún Lýðsdóttir
Project Research / Hybrid Publishing
Major Master Media Design: Lens-Based
Year Graduation Project

Nomination: Master Research & Hybrid Publishing Award 2018

Foremothers -Reenactments- is my research into artists that make reenactments in the form of self-portraits, and looking at the subgenre of reenacting family portraits. The thesis goes along with my Foremothers studio project, which is an intensive exploration of feminine identity through reenacting photographs of my female ancestors.

In the thesis, Foremothers -Reenactments-, I concentrate on female artists, because I think art made by women has undergone very important development in the timeframe I am reenacting photos from. I find it interesting how they are trying to break away from the male gaze, and the boundaries of how they represent themselves have been stretched and redefined.

The carefully chosen key elements bring the past to the present.

Reenactment can seem at first to be quite simple and straightforward, a sort of copying. But I have discovered through my research that the methods, reasons, interpretations, and the processes of research all have their say in creating very distinctive and personal results. Reenacting an image entails recreating a scene, reliving it but also at the same time reinventing and reinterpreting a moment of time. Each uses different methods, from imposing on pictures, to wearing masks, to spiritual channelling. In the reenactments of family portraits, most of the work I examined had some level of investigating the issues of intimacy and identity.


I discovered in the process of writing, that reenactment as an activity, is a ubiquitous part of life: it happens in our daily life and in our minds all the time. In the beginning, I thought reenactments were more like making copies or imitations, but by the end of this two-year research project, I have found the process to be much more of an interpretation and an artistic statement.
Foremothers is the result of 2 years studying and analyzing the collection of my female ancestors' photographs taken over the period of the last 111 years. The reenactments of the chosen photographs frame a personal exploration of feminine identity.

The process has been vigorous repetitions of the reenactments, counting upon thousands of photos and experiments: a process of repetition, but also of adjustments and refinement, using the phone as the mirror and remote, to perfect the posture and gestures. The carefully chosen key elements bring the past to the present. The intense study of gesture, posture and presenting oneself also play a key role. The tension between the similarities and the differences in the photograph are of the utmost importance.