The complexity of human relationships is one of the central themes of Gillian
Wearing's work. This British artist, born in Birmingham in 1963 and winner of the
prestigious Turner Prize in 1997, draws her inspiration from the formats of
television documentaries and popular confession-type programmes, turning to
photography and the use of video to explore the most intimate aspects of our
relationship with others and with our own self. Her exceptionally frank work
provides a sober picture of some aspects of contemporary British life, although
they could easily be extrapolated to most of western society.
Wearing's impartial attitude makes her worthy of the respect of the characters she
takes on, such as the homeless alcoholics in Drunk (2000), or the people who
relive their childhood or adolescent problems in Trauma (2000).
Although in some of her works, among them, Sacha and Mum (1996), actors
intervene, Wearing tends to seek out the collaboration of real people. When
filming Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what
someone else wants you to say (1992-93), she stopped passers-by, asking them to
write down the first thing that came into their heads. She has never photographed
or filmed a person without asking their permission first.
Wearing herself comes under public scrutiny by participating in some of the
works. In Dancing in Peckham (1994) she dances for half an hour in the middle
of a shopping centre.
When Wearing works in the editing room, she manipulates the images and the
texts filmed, turning sometimes to techniques such as dubbing NULL as happens in 2
into 1 (1997) or in 10-16 (1997) NULL or rewinding the image, as in Sacha and Mum.
These techniques underline Wearing's decision-making process throughout the
creative task, the reinterpretation and representation of the events.
Wearing's work reminds us that art's role consists of fomenting our perception of
reality, of calling into question what we think we know to be true, our acceptance
of what is conventional, our taboos, and our way of putting the world around us
Signs that say what you want them to say and
not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say,