To see the world through the eyes of another is a difficult task. Yet Jo Bannon asks through her new work if that is even possible: can we ever really see each other as we really are? Exposure is the first in a projected series of works exploring concepts of ‘looking’. Set in the pitch dark, it is a ten-minute performance encounter for a single audience member. One-on-one, Jo guides us through an autobiographical account of who she is, blending a mix of silent torch-lit instruction, moments of darkness, bright revelation, and a prerecorded audio account via shared headphones.
Upon entry, the prevailing silence of a consuming dark space brings tension and a sense of unease; however, this is quickly overcome with calm, intimacy and an introspective process that overwhelms and surprises. Jo guides us from a prerecorded past, attempting to capture images of herself in the present; alongside the snap-shot-like glimpses of the physical woman before us we see documentation, such as an image of the inside of her Albinism-afflicted eye, or a forgotten childhood photo. But it is in the moments of complete darkness that the work comes alive – here the captured voice documents an unseen self, perceptible in that she is very much with us, yet unseen, and the voice of the past juxtaposed with the presence of the individual invisible yet mere feet away, is an intense and very profoundly intimate thing. It is also in these moments that one begins to reflect upon one’s own being: who am I, and what makes me who I am?
Jo’s work is expertly edited; it is both a joy and a treasure to be given a moment which you may feel is unique to you. The trick in the work is the idea surrounding seeing; she has picked elements that one can conceivably witness externally: this is not necessarily all of who she is and rightly so. We are by our very nature judges of external appearance and Jo dissects this process, taking us beyond the seen and into the realm of the perceived, both seen and unseen. The construction of identity and deconstruction of self is at play here, and excitingly, as the work continues, this happens not only for the performer but for the spectator as well.
In its final moments silence and light return. The experience and process is confronted; we are exposed. It is not a social stand-off, but a sense of knowing that we now openly observe one another; it is awkward, charming, comforting and true. Words are not needed by the end and this work is certainly very special. To fully know one’s self may be impossible, but Bannon gives us a chance to explore that possibility, and, oddly, this is a rare occasion where you may leave the space wanting to thank the artist rather than simply congratulate them.