Response to Gillian Wearing- Eliciting Secrets, pg 110

Gillian Wearing’s work may not seem like it’s all that different from things we see regularly nowadays- the reading openly compares her work’s pure honesty and disclosures to that of reality television- some examples being The Real World, Court TV, Jerry Springer, Bachelor, and Survivor. It kind of makes me cringe thinking about any form of art in comparison to these things, but in all honesty- after reading just a few pages about Wearing and her work, it makes total sense.

im-desperate gillian-wearing-signs-that-say-what-you-want-them-to-say-and-not-signs-that-say-what-someone-else-wants-you-to-say-1992-1993

“Gillian Wearing amplifies viewers’ responses by bridging the divide that separates them from the real life human subjects of her photographs and videos. Wearing situates these subjects so they stare into her camera in the manner of mugshots. As images, they instigate captivating, face to face encounters with the viewers. Then she invites her sujects to speak or convey their thoughts in written statements. Wearing directs them away from emotionally dilluting forms of discourse. Instead of the casual manner of chatting, they formal approach of lecturing, or the entertaining style of story telling, her subjects confess. Honest disclosures are rare. The contest of these disclosures is sometimes shocking. When viewers are shocked, they tend to suspend such relaxed and fleeting manners of observing as glancing and gazing. Instead, they look at these artworks with the intensity of a stare. Confession and staring complete the communication chain- from artwork to viewer and from viewer to artwork.”

Although Wearing’s work shares many of the same qualities as reality television, web broadcasts, etc- she maintains her place in the arena of Fine Art rather than sensationalism and typicality of such entertainment. The common thread, though, remains pure self-disclosure. Wearing has allowed all types of people into her photography to disclose their secrets- women, children and workers alongside rapists, transexuals, and drunks. Everyone has secrets and everyone should have the opportunity to disclose them.

While I really like Wearing’s early work where she allows strangers to disclose their deepest, darkest secrets- her later work kind of pisses me off. In the early 2000s she starts doing a lot of self portraits as others. She wears masks and poses as other people- whether they’re people she knows, or famous people. When I saw these photos- I immediately thought of Cindy Sherman. Who I love. And I didn’t like that I kinda felt like her concept was getting stolen. I think Wearing should have stuck with her orgininal conceptual photography of allowing people from all walks of life express their deepest, darkest secrets through her photos.


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