About the Artwork
360° Self-Portrait presents a mysterious and mesmerising video portrait of the artist. We see the artist’s face, pale, a little fragile and somehow unnatural, floating as if in a black void. We are caught by her gaze, direct and unflinching; and as we watch her, face-to-face, entranced, her features slowly transform, her face reddens, a vein on her forehead bulges, her eyes narrow and her complexion creases. She appears to be under tremendous pressure and her eyes start to water. Bravely maintaining her composure in spite of the physical hardship she is appears to be experiencing, attests Rrap’s reputation as a performance artist of considerable standing and conviction. This work is both poignant and confronting: Rrap’s face seems to physically undergo the emotional traumas of a lifetime in a ten-minute, looped cycle. Viewers are prompted to wonder whether her suffering is the result of an external or internal force, and more broadly to reflect on the cycle of life and ageing, and conversely the superficial qualities of beauty and keeping up appearances.
The artist has filmed herself rotating on a giant spinning wheel, bound firmly in front of a fixed camera, so she was immovable. Only the flesh of her face shifts due to gravity as the wheel turns and she ends up on her side or upside down. The things which age and trouble us pass and we regain equilibrium, only to be turned upside down once again. At the end of the loop, a tear escapes Rrap’s eye and begins to trickle down her cheek, before the image is faded into the starting shot once more and the whole process begins again. The intimacy and bareness of the work is both engaging and confronting, and the artist’s face suspended in a sort of black void is a haunting portrait of the paradox between time and motion.
360° Self-Portrait is part of an on-going exploration by the artist of representations of the body, invariably her own body. Rrap has been active as an artist for over 30 years; in 2008 the MCA presented a major retrospective exhibition of her work titled Body Double, curated by Victoria Lynn, accompanied by a major publication of the same title.
Judith Blackall (Head, Artistic Programs), Statement of significance, object file note, Museum of Contemporary Art, 2011
360° Self Portrait is about the things that are outside of us, our bodies, what happens inside of us and what happens to us.
Julie Rrap, 2011
– About the artist
Julie Rrap has been a major figure in Australian contemporary art for over three decades. Since the mid-1970s, she has worked with photography, painting, sculpture, performance and video in an on-going project concerned with representations of the body.