Nora Schaffer 'Loosing Our Self'

25.03.2014 - 25.03.2015

Nora Schaffer writes about 'Loosing Our Self' one of the projects she worked on during her time as artist in residence in the Amazon. 

Kristen, my identical twin sister (and my fellow resident), and I have spent most of the last ten years apart. We weren't very close the 18 years we did spend together. And now she's married and living in an entirely different country than myself. So, as we took this journey into the unknown together, it occurred to me this would be one of a few opportunities we'd have to work together as identical twins.

My supposition is that twins are not any one thing that can be understood from the perspective of someone that is not a twin. I think how excited one is to realize they are meeting twins or merely telling someone I am a twin is enough to set off a serious of questions: what's it like? are you close? do you like the same things? etc etc you get the picture, my favorite - wanna be in a threesome? So forth, and so forth, that any sort of visual representation of twin, is more often than not, given the likeliness of an artist being an identical twin, fetishizing twin-dom.

So. Are we the same person? This is a the type of question that has an obvious answer (we aren't) but makes me wonder whether there is an alternative answer. Is it possible that we could be the same person?

For me and Kristen, two very different people and two functionally different artists, it seems unlikely. Looks alone, we're not the most convincing of clones. Kristen is about two inches taller, has a more impressive bosom, and overall a more well-defined facial structure with a prominent chin. I am daintier in size, and softer by appearance.

As a photographer attempting to examine a long history of artists fetishizing twins, the way we look next to each other matters. I decided that I'd have to carry out this project under the assumption we pass as identical twins.

Under that assumption and the assumption that we were different yet there was a omnipresent question of sameness, I chose to focus on a situation in which there was a potential for the confusion of our individual identities.

It just so happens we were on our way to the jungle, which is easy to get lost in. And it seems that loosing ourself is exactly what I wanted to test out.

I go into the jungle, or she does, and do we assimilate, loose oneself, find oneself, or become each other? Who am I and who is us? The jungle provides a mysterious, highly textured backdrop for the story.

Influences included Ingmar Bergman's PERSONA which features two biologically unrelated actresses who uncannily resemble each other physically as "doubles" who in turn confound and confuse their identities with one another; and the 1510 painting St. George and the Dragon by Albrecht Altdorfer, in which identity (literally) is surrendered to the forest.

Working title is "Loosing Our Self" and the following is a selection of unedited sample scans from many 35mm slide still film exposures I took over the course of three weeks in the jungle surrounding the Tambopata Research Center. There is a 50/50 split of self-portraits and portraits of me and my identical twin sister. For book or for gallery, my hope is that the representation of twin is reunited with the question of identity. "Classical Twin Photography" too often looses sight of the potential for subjectivity of the "objects" represented.

Following the visual story, perhaps long after the fact and separate from whatever primary presentation is made, will be a grouping of anecdotes of what it's like trying to to make art in the jungle which is filled with an enormous amount of creepy crawly things who all seem to have a creative bent, wanting to involve themselves in the process. Not to mention the oppressive heat which makes trouncing around in a full length, neck-binding, polyester dress akin to hell in all regards. Nor was it great when groups of international tourists would come stumbling across our paths while we were in the middle of changing in and out of dress (as there was only one). And of course using an assistant photographer (Kristen), who has no understanding of how a camera works and in especially a hard study in trying to explain the mere concept of a double exposure, useful to me whatsoever. Save it to say, Kristen was rewarded for her willingness to participate. Unlike the time a friend of mine dawned red wig and jumped into the a extra wide skirt with me one halloween long again, Kristen is and will always be my only identical twin sister.