Feb 1, 07:50 am
Mae Wested from the Disappearing of Michelle duBois in the Monica King Contemporary Art Grotto, New York, NY
For over a decade, Crosher has been working with duBois’s archive of self-portraits in “a method of multiplication [and] continual reiteration”; she has arranged and rearranged, assembled and reassembled the photographs into groupings, books, and exhibitions, under evolving titles such as The Reconsidered Archive of Michelle DuBois (2004–8), The Disappearance of Michelle DuBois (2011–13), The Disbanding of Michelle DuBois (2013–present), etc.
Throughout the duBois project, Zoe Crosher has manipulated the original images in a way to emphasize the archive’s physicality. Working through the archive, Crosher characterized the images according to their content and narrative as well as their formal or material features.
This is the same “image” played out four different ways (a strategy used often with this project) – four versions of the same image of Michelle duBois (one of her five alias’) dressed up out in public as Mae West (an interesting nod to a feminist lineage that was brash, brazen and confident, as opposed to the Marilyn Monroe line that fetishizes the opposite. Interestingly, when I’ve given talks at universities and such, many people don’t know who Mae West is!!)
One image is a photograph of the image itself, one is an image of the photograph in an album, one is a photograph from a newspaper with a photo of her dressed up as Mae West, and the final one is her a rephotographed version of the image with a note obscuring her face from a sub-series of the project that showcases a series of notes duBois wrote to describe what was happening in various photographs of herself (which is pretty wild…)
“In this Crosher enters the duBois archive into the discussion about what photography is and is not capable of, and Crosher seems to be aware of this in a way that duBois is not. But both assert their own roles as producers and disseminators of representations. As Mae West said: “A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.” – Kim Schoen
“Crosher’s handling of the archive is neither documentary nor investigative; she never intended to use the photos to give an accounting of her subject’s life” (Ross, web). Rather, for Crosher, the archive becomes another subversive means to exemplify the very impossibility of making sense of an individual’s identity through an accumulation of self-portraits, that is, according to Crosher, the very fictional aspect of the documentary photography. “Accumulation”, she stresses, “does not equal clarity – but in fact it compromises fiction” (Crosher qtd. in Blalock, “Part 1”). In this respect, one may realize how Crosher’s formulation of duBois’ archive is not only in keeping with the postmodern concepts of the constructed-unstable self, but also with what Marlene Manoff called “the postmodern suspicion of the historical record” (Manoff 14). – Yonit Aronowicz, Going Beyond the Photo-Archive The Significance of Fantasy and Photo-Reflexivity in Zoe Crosher’s The Michelle duBois Project