Why Be You When You Can Be Me?
Petra Collins’ Unconscious Truths
For the sixth edition of Baron, a magazine series with a cult following and a visceral impulse, photographer and frequent 032c contributor Petra Collins turned her famously dream-like lens toward a new subject: herself. Titled Miért vagy te, ha lehetsz én? – Hungarian for “Why be you, when you can be me?” – the artist’s latest book is also her most personal to date, taking Collins’ childhood home, environment, and influences as the backdrop for an exploration of her early life experiences, and how and where they dwell in her psyche, infusing her practice and reality today. Drawing on her mother’s heritage, her time spent in the suburbs, and her schooling in Toronto – and shooting within an opaque blend of constructed sets and “real” locations – the work is non-linear, illogical, and often dark. This is not the realm of the unreal, but rather of the unconscious, the unseen, the unruly, and sometimes the unwholesome.
Collins cast her sister, Anna, to interpret her vision alongside her, and recruited artist Sarah Sitkin to create silicone casts of her body, which she shot alongside her own – effects that multiply and confuse the layers of fantasy and identity navigated through the work. Despite the haze, when we spoke to Collins, an unanticipated theme persisted, surfacing in each question and reply: that of truth.