essay by Charlotte Cotton (book: No Kissing)
Jason Pearson, in collaboration with his brother, has been creating a cache of photographic imagery. They construct a visual language of shared memories, notes, and proclamations that collectively provide an idiosyncratic glimpse into their histories and experiences. Their photographs act as a set of codes and signifiers of imagined events, games and desires. Jason Pearson has an eye for the visually strange and contradictory, and this is the overarching characteristic of all of the photographs shown here. There are images of Pearson re-enacting childhood memories, sometimes composed with reference to the conventions of family photographs. Other photographs are documents of scenarios that the brothers and their collaborators stage, using masks and other graphic props that confuse the two- and three- dimensional spaces of a photographic image, encouraging the viewer to try to imagine what is taking place in these psychologically charged scenes. There are also many digital collages within the brothers’ archive that use popular culture imagery collaged and re-worked with quasi-adolescent Photoshop embellishment, often conveying a sense of erotic and unrequited desire. Collectively, these different photographic image-types create a subjective but real and tangible sense of the Pearsons’ relationship with the external world.
Authorship of the Pearsons’ photographs is displaced because of the way that they photograph, collage, and layout photographic imagery without a consistent ‘signature style’ – their own photographs and those they find to use have equivalent value in the overall scheme of their practice. Of course, that ambiguity is doubled by the fluidity of authorship between the twin brothers, and the fluctuating division of labour between them, in each addition to their photographic collaboration. Concomitantly, the Pearsons’ practice reflects the contemporary trajectory of a much more sophisticated use of photographic style which emerged in the late 1970s, whereby artists were deploying photographic language as a tool rather than the more romantic Modernist idea of photography as a direct outputting of an artist’s unique vision. But what is distinct to the current moment of photographic practice, to which the Pearsons consciously align their practice, is the way that we currently use photographic imagery in social media and in the course of our daily lives. The Pearsons shift the authorship of their practice away from the photographs, per se, and towards the visual ‘phrases’ that can be made from the combining and sequencing of imagery. Their photographs are authentic expressions, crafted so that we can enter into the creative and psychological space that the Pearsons have created.