Philosopher Martin Heidegger described human existence as a process of perpetual falling, and felt it the responsibility of each individual to catch themselves, climb up from their own uncertainty. This unsettling prognosis of our lives informs Kerry Skarbakka’s present body of work. She continually returns to issues about the nature of control and its effects on this perceived responsibility.
Beyond the basic laws that govern and maintain our equilibrium, we live in a world that constantly tests our stability, in various ways. War, rumours of war, issues of security, the effects of globalization and the politics of identity are external gravities turned inward, serving to further threaten the precarious balance of the self, exaggerating negative feelings about control.
Kerry Skarbakka: ‘This photographic work is in response to this delicate state. It comprises a culmination of thought and emotion, a tying together of the threads of everything I perceive life has come to represent. It is my understanding and perspective, which rely on the shifting human conditions in the world that we inhabit. Its exploration resides in the sublime metaphorical space from which balance has been disrupted to the point of no return. It asks what it means to resist the struggle, to simply let go, or indeed, the consequences of holding on.
‘Using myself as a model, and with the aid of climbing gear and other rigging, I photograph the body as it dangles from dangerous precipices or tumbles down flights of stairs. The captured gesture of the body is designed for the plausibility of action, grounding the image in reality. It is the ambiguity of the body’s position in space that allows and requires the viewer to resolve the full meaning of the photograph. Do we fall? Can we fly? If we fly, the loss of control facilitates supreme control.’
The images are layered with references to experiences in sculpture and painting, while the cinematic quality of the work suggests the influence of commercial films. Dimensions are important in establishing a direct relationship between the image and the viewer. The images stand as ominous messages, reminders that we are all vulnerable to losing our footing, our grasp. They convey the primal qualities of the human condition as a precarious balancing act in the struggle between our desire to survive and our fantasies of transcending that human state.