Mariamma Kambon: Castle of My Skin

Topics: Photography, El Dorado, Appropriation Pages: 4 (1340 words) Published: January 31, 2013
Autobiography is a path by which many artists apply their experiences, training and motives.

What is created is in dialogue with a social/ personal critique that can imply and embody an individual understanding or subjectivity onto and into a work of art. In an age where the veracity of photography has been debunked due to the evolution of digital photography, and practicing in a post modern age becomes increasingly taxing as appropriation and ownership are in constant debate/flux/recontextualization, one wonders where this leaves artists who are looking to the past to find answers.

Mariamma Kambon’s recent work finds itself tousled within these labyrinths. Born and raised on Trinidad and Tobago, her perspective is uniquely linked to the region; her familiarity with the land fundamental and innate. In her recent body of work constructed over the course of 2009-2010, Castle of My Skin signifies a re-identification and sublimation into the power of archives, literature and, in its wake, the weight and value of history. The title is borrowed from the conscious and pioneering right-of-passage novel by George Lamming entitled In the Castle of My Skin.

Kambon culled and appropriated daguerreotypes from Harvard’s Photographic Archive, which were in marked contrast to other portraits from the same period that were meant to support pseudo-scientific justifications of slavery. Appropriation in visual arts, and specifically photography, came to the forefront in the late 1970s; it is commonly defined as the inclusion of either hand-duplicated or mechanically reproduced copies of existing works, usually accompanied by a claim that where is some re-contextualization occurring within the function and/or aesthetic of the work. Typically involving transference from one historical or cultural context to another, explicit strategies of appropriation represent an attempt to reveal some hitherto unrecognizable irony in the original.

Allan Sekula, photographer, historian...
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