What is the status of the artist in relation to the work of art? While, in general, installation art could be said to have pioneered the idea of the artist as curator, performance art the idea of the artist as actor, conceptual art the idea of the artist as author, the status of the artist in relation to more contemporary multimedia practices is both complex and indeterminate. Part of this indeterminacy arises from the increasingly technical and technological character of the processes of the production of works of art. Often working with commercial specialists and state-of-the-art imaging equipment, the artist takes on a selection and organisational roles akin, at times, to that of a film director. Abstracted from the processes of making, one could legitimately ask, of whom or of what is the work of art an expression? Does the work of art reflect the artist or does it reveal something else altogether?
These question return us to an old but increasingly relevant concern. That is, the status of authorship in relation to contemporary visual arts. Is the artist as producer dead? Or is s/he alive in a more subtle and sophisticated form? One contemporary artist exploring these issues is Adam Geczy. For a recent exhibition at the Basement Gallery, Melbourne, provocatively titled Lessons in Self-Adulation, Geczy produced a series of computer-enhanced images, scanned from found books including an obscure 1960s encyclopedia, starring himself as an object of heroic adoration and sexual desire. While the formal technique employed is common, found in the work of Tracey Moffatt and Hou Leong for instance, the rendering of the substitution is new. Inserting his naked body (as a form of artistic readymade) into an existing visual text, the images are then blurred, tinted and coloured to produce a kind of humorous visual affectation overlayed with a strangely ridiculous auto-erotic quality.
In Segovia Castle (1996) Geczy used a cut-out photograph of an archetypal Spanish castle, the imposing Alcazar built in Segovia in the 14th century, as a makeshift loin-cloth. Arching backwards, the front of Geczy's torso is fully exposed towards the camera in an erotic pose. With his hands thrust between his legs supporting the cut-out castle, which sits upright from his body, the whole image conveys a charged sense of both fantasy and mystery. While this aspect of the work could well be read as a play on ideas of creative genius and primal inspiration, as the main subject and object of the image, the artist himself is portrayed as a self-obsessed and indulgent narcissist. Other images, such as Mysterious Barricades No. 2 (1996) and Redskin 1, 11, 111 (1996) portray the artist as a man or woman of strength, power and virility while Vatentino (1996) returns us to a model of the suave and debonair sophisticate enchanting all through wit and whim.
Sliding between each of these images the artist is continually positioned and re-positioned in a complex interrogation of the social as much as the self. Each integration into an image as a cliched artistic persona, however, is at once a substitution and a displacement. These are not then, contrary to first appearances, narcissistic images. The substitution acts as a form of self-displacement. Each change in costume and persona leads to a change in reference. What, then, is the status of the artist in relation to the work? Simultaneously manipulating and rejecting cliched conventions and codes, Geczy's images suggest that authorship for an artist is not so much tied to processes of making or even to the visible content of imagery. On the contrary, it is an expression of a critical attitude and a means of self-reflection.