As you open the book (one of the 500 copies available), the first noticeable feature is that there is no informative text — no author’s bio, no description or chapter division— a strong editorial choice that gives the artefact a Barthesian aura. The photos riff over the theme of the body, identity and performance and always feature the photographer: she positions herself in front of the camera and executes various body positions captured in movement that sometimes look at first almost spontaneous. This first impression is immediately shattered as one flicks through the book: the author’s face is almost always covered because of the body angle in which these positions take place, and when this is not the case, it is bleached out through local overexposure. The sets in which these impromptu performances take place go between carefully staged indoor, using both found materials and paint, or a more improvised outdoor setting.
If body and performance compose the first thematic layer of the work, these pictures transpire an inherent interest for the way image themselves mediate identity to a public. While the “body images” regularly hide Ms. Wenzel’s face, these are punctuated throughout the publication with a series of self-portraits which are pictures-of-pictures in which an LCD screen is clearly visible. Very often these are taken with a phone camera with the flash on, strategically overexposing part of the face. Wenzel divides her own self-representation between head and rest of the body, and very rarely breaks the rules here presented.
The use of LCD screen texture as an active element of the picture is embedded within the narrative of photography-about-photography, which one can see in earlier cases such as Michael Wolf’s “A Series on Unfortunate Events”, in which the late German photographer took pictures of awkward Google Maps situations. This discourse is brought up more evidently as we recurringly see the artist’s own camera in the frame (made more evident formally as it stands on a tripod), and it goes as far as showing first a picture, and then the making of the same a few spreads down the publication. Here perhaps we can at last understand the book’s title, refering to the number of seconds Wenzel has to pose before the camera’s timer firing off.
Wenzel’s interrogations on the medium she employs is also carried out through more subtle means. The third type of pictures one can find inside is a series of cropped out details lifted from larger images and blown up, often emphasizing grain and imperfections. These more often than not feature feet, hands, sometimes again through the LCD texture that recurs throughout. These images act as metaphorical interludes between the various scenarios on which the author carries out her monologues, that overall sound more like the enunciation of a dilemma, rather than a statement. In an historical moment overloaded with representation and self-representation and more generically images, this is a work that doesn’t shout, but instead waits for its viewer to read through the lines and reveal itself gradually. If images online are distributed and consumed en-masse within matters of seconds, this book is very much at the other end of the spectrum, giving very little context to its identity in any direct (ie. written) way — a paradox if you will, as identity is one of the author’s main points of concern. You can buy Counting Till Ten here.