Authenticity, desire and the real in Dominic Hawgood's work
“Under the Influence examines the practice of exorcism in African churches based around London. The enigmatic experience of seeing deliverance first hand becomes the inspiration for a series that engages with topics about authenticity, desire, and the real.”
How did the series Under the Influence come about? What is very interesting is the critical aspect of the design objects, IE, the images and the light boxes and the ideas behind the work.
I was studying for my MA and became curious about the churches around London, especially where I live, they’re well attended but something far removed from my everyday life. I decided to find out more, attended various services, and spoke to pastors around the city. At the churches I attended I was struck by the theatrical nature of exorcism and deliverance often taking place, it was enigmatic, mysterious, but also ambiguous. It appeared almost as a performance, something fake, so I built a project that recreated for the viewer the feeling of confusion that I encountered. In the end I concentrated on a single church, and I was transfixed by the way faith was being packaged. The website and it’s content, the merchandising, the services, social media.... it was a complex web of commodification, obsession and the transmission of ideas. I also liked the pace at which the church evolved, you could literally see it growing, watch marketing strategies take affect, and see where they were visually sourcing inspiration from.
Let's speak about the creative process behind your work.
Light is an important aspect to my work, and within in Under the Influence this is further explored in the installation of the work, both through set building and the product design utilized in my solo show at TJ Boulting. I was able to transform a space, to extend concepts within my work relating to commercial display methods, but also create an experience for the viewer. I created a cold, clinical, digital spiritualism through the careful use of LEDs.
Your language is completely experimental in this project. How do you define yourself, as a photographer, performer or designer?
I’m looking to expand away from photography, to consider new ways to make art. It’s a natural progression that creates new opportunities and collaborations, and keeps things both interesting and challenging. I’m using CGI, lighting, text, installation, moving image, stills, performance..... and I suppose they all offer a way explore the ideas that I come back to. I’m definitely interested in communicating experience, in producing an atmosphere and playing with our perception of reality. Under the Influence seems to continually evolve, I’m being resourceful with ideas, reworking them pushing them to their limits... the process is liberating and fun. For my next solo show during PhotoIreland I’m using one of my 3d renders as the starting point, and reworking it as a light installation; the bottle model had been 3d printed and floats in a seemingly 2d space. It seems design is becoming more prominent, and the light panels I custom designed for the project are a good example of this.
In the article of Emaho Magazine the journalist says: “There is a sense of controlled precision given by the construction of lights". At the same time the people in your photos are taken in a moment that is extremely personal. So I can see the humanity and the objectivity at the same time.
I use various approaches in the production of my work, none of which I’ve discussed, and information that has been purposely retained. To read something as personal would be an assumption upon the reader’s behalf that this is in fact documenting something very personal, whilst I’ve never said I documented anything, what about the possibly this is complete fiction? I released almost no information for a number of reasons, but partly because I don’t feel the need for an academic text that sits beside the work. As I mentioned previously I was recreating the feeling of confusion, and this play between real/ fake is the kind of ambiguity I have placed on loop. Since it’s never clear how something was produced you’re continually confronted by questions about realism. If I reveal the process, the mystery is lost, and it also undermines the concept behind the work. In addition to this though I was looking for new ways to create narrative, and what better way then to let everyone create it for me through their own reading.
What's the difference between the photos black and white and the photos with colors?
I used two visual strategies to divide the work, black and white that have a documentary but also editorial feel, and color that’s saturated, highly stylized and takes on the appearance of advertising. They contrast each other, but as you see in the installation, also work together to form a surreal atmosphere.