Talking Pictures by J. Higgie

Higgie J. (2011) ‘Talking Pictures’, Frieze Magazine (October) Available at: http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/talking-pictures/ (accessed 3/12/15)

“For some time, Tangier was a big existential waiting room.” Yto barrada

JH Do you feel there is a gulf between the subjects of your work and the people who get to see it in a gallery? What are your thoughts on the ethics of representation in your work?

YBYou’re suggesting that I represent disempowered, passive people in my work and that the art viewer is privileged, empowered. But the characters I represent aren’t the victims of some superior power: in their own way, they could be saboteurs. Even the men sleeping in public parks in my series ‘Sleepers’ (2006) may look like they’re dead but they’re only taking a nap. I don’t see passivity there. I am attentive to what lies beneath the surface of public behaviour. I am a big reader of Jonathan Swift. In public, those oppressed accept their domination, but they always question it offstage. The subversive tactics, strategies of class contestation and forms of sabotage used by the poor is what I try to locate. These characters could well distract you from the big picture, and it’s a challenge to maintain the right distance. I am not idealizing some kind of figure of everyday resistance. The big picture is a human disaster. The city is modernizing but the people’s needs are not at the centre of the decisions – the triumphalist liberalism of the choices made in our national infrastructure projects is quite blinding.

“There’s more resistance than meets the eye.”

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