Clare Bottomley

Playing with the Gods

Play with the Gods is a project I developed whilst searching for alternative methods of representations that stepped away from traditional documentary approaches. The more I read about photography’s role within creating oppression, the more I wanted to find alternative methods of exploring identity and representation.

At the same time, I became interested in art history and in particular classical paintings portrayals of Greek and Roman Mythologies. I was interested in the purpose of the paintings theatrical retellings of these tells, and why the narratives were so enduring. The folklorist Lauri Honko suggested the reasons for myths continued prevalence throughout history is to “confirm society’s moral values and norms and provides a pattern of behaviour to be imitated,” but if that is true that means are moral codes and social value haven’t changed for thousands of years. This made me realise the similarity to the tells told in ancient myths and the narrative acted out nightly within TV soaps and dramas, and also to consider the hypocrisy that one form of these mediums was privileged and consider high art and the other TV Soaps looked down upon as pop culture.

With Playing the Gods project I wanted to steal the theatrical aesthetics of these paintings from the dusty walls of the elitist institutions and to develop them within my self-portraits to create transgressive contemporary versions of these ancient mythologies. I hope the uncomfortable pairing of these ancient tells with their encoding moralistic stances and my life with all its complexations and realities will raise questions about how our judgements, principles and belief might be based on outdate even ancient fictions.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Clare Bottomley is an artist and academic originally from Gloucester UK, now based in Helsinki, Finland. Her background is in documentary photography before studying for a Master’s at the Royal College of Art, which led her to develop a research interest in hybrid documentary methods and self-representation. Her work investigates the individual’s autonomy in the act of looking, as a challenge to the established authority of visuality, and is set against the current essentialist forms of representation that prevail in visual culture (socially and politically), advocating for a more subjective, anti-essentialist viewpoint. Clare often makes visual reference to art history within her projects seeking to rewrite western narrative conventions through re-enactment and performativity. Clare’s experience in creative educations and research into critical pedagogy has led to collaboration playing an important role within her practice, which utilises collective approaches encompassing photography, video, and participatory workshops, when working closely with communities affected by social inequalities.