TARRAH KRAJNAK | Mask & Mirror


Saturday, 27 January 2024, 2-7pm

“The series Mask & Mirror was made while I was working out of a small family cabin built in 1954 on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest of the US. The cabin is full of family belongings including: piles of old books, records, paintings, drawings, boxes of old photographs, journals, dream diaries and an impressive collection of strange and meaningful objects, including old masks, broken instruments, stones, feathers, primitive figurines, clay bowls and fetishes. One day, I picked up this mask, unaware of its origins, and I began using my camera and my body to conjure associations and to build psychic memories in response to the mask. The series began as simply as this, with play and performance for the camera. I limited myself to the use of three objects; a mirror, a bedsheet, and the mask. I set up a darkroom in an old bathtub and used a very small room adjacent to it as my shooting studio. I used a large format wooden 8×10 camera with one fixed standard lens. The camera itself, shrouded in dark cloth, became a huge looming figure in the room leaving almost no space for me to work anywhere but on the bed. The bed, with all of its associations, then became a perfect stage for the unfolding of these performative self-portraits. I developed the negatives in the middle of the night by hand due to light leaks in the cabin. Many of them contain scratches and finger marks, and were severely underexposed. In the printing process I started overlapping some of these failed negatives, and by chance a mysterious new image would emerge in the darkroom. Mostly all of these are straight photographs though, contact printed directly from the unmanipulated negative. I associate the series now with my continued interest in photography’s materiality, the woman’s body as medium, surrealist strategies, and the occult history of photography. When sequencing the series for this exhibition I began to construct new meanings from the photographs. The series as exhibited might depict a transformation, or the staging of one’s own birth, a symbolic symmetrical death where another figure emerges from the head of another, a kind of twinning. I am, at present, unable to commit to any singular reading of these photographs. Years later, I learned that the mask is a depiction of Semar, from Javanese mythology who frequently appears in wayang shadow plays. Semar has many origin stories and genealogies, but his name is said to derive from the Javanese word samar meaning dim, obscure, mysterious.” – Tarrah Krajnak, 2024

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