Untitled from Rendition, 2005
©Jessica M. Kaufman, all rights reserved
I recently traveled to a place that was as unfamiliar to me as I was to it. Though that country's vast history, current contentious politics and rapid growth in power are each reason enough to photograph there, I was content to let those conditions set the stage, and underscore the conceptual meaning in the project I decided to pursue. I am not a documentarian, but I am an astute observer, and Rendition is, at base, exactly that.
But conceptually it is much more than just my interpretation of a place. It is a meditation on the condition of being a stranger – of, yes, being in a foreign country without the tools of language and cultural comprehension to fall back on, but also finding oneself alien within it, and altered by it. My work is always about the various ways experience is assimilated into identity, and this series expands on that theme by examining the ways that strangers (in this case, person and place) represent themselves – what is made accessible, and what, ultimately, remains impenetrable.
There I found that I was most interested in the layers of civilization that were revealed in every gesture, every attraction, every neighborhood – and, of course, what made those layers visible were the ones I bore too, but from a world away. This series is about cultural and individual inscrutability: about discovering one's own foreignness in the world and to oneself; about waking up in a strange place, and waking up a stranger.