Autoscopy

Since childhood, acquaintances have been telling me stories that they spotted me in places I’ve never been to. I used to fancy that I had a doppelgänger when I was a child, but because of the sheer number of sightings, I gradually arrived at the conclusion that these appearances were not me or anything fantastical. Instead, these acquaintances had merely mistaken similar looking people for me as a consequence of having only a vague recollection of my face.

Reflecting on this experience, I took photos of myself dressed up as many different people making use of this quality of myself that made me ambiguous to others.
I expanded this technique beyond myself and applied it in photos of friends as well. At exhibitions of my works featuring photos of both me and my friends, viewers frequently ask me “Are all these photos of you?”

I wondered what prompted such questions, despite the subjects differing in race, gender, and facial features. Is it that people’s cognizance and recollection of faces is so extremely fuzzy?Other reasons are possible too.

My own face is a model that I look at and come in contact with everyday as a technical part of making portraits. For example, when I do up acquaintances’ faces with the makeup I normally use for my own face or when I correct photos in post-production, I often look at my own face in a mirror to confirm whether the faces are still anatomically correct even though the subjects are not me.

As I gaze at these subjects on my monitor and work with the pen tablet, I gradually start to perceive them as myself, or as a brother or sister or other blood relative. It’s as if my DNA blends in with their faces. I sense an ineffable force guiding my hand and essences of my own face melding into my subjects right before my eyes.

Autoscopy is the name for the phenomenon in which you perceive a complete stranger to be yourself. Like the doppelgänger, seeing one’s presence in a place where you simply cannot exist is one type of psychology phenomenon. I am not physically present in any of the works in this exhibit. But the viewer can discern vestiges of me even without seeing me. So that perhaps these, too, can be called self-portraits.

Ayano Sudo

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