Phantasie Fotostudio II is the most recent work made as part of the ongoing collaboration between artists Esther Teichmann and Monster Chetwynd. Since having first met at the Royal College of Art during their MA studies in 2004, the pair have been struck by the parallels in reference materials that their very distinct practices draw upon. Their practices also overlap in their adoption of tableaux vivantes and their use of theatrical backdrops and sets. Thus begun a dialogue and close friendship that has taken the form of making a joint body of work once a decade.
Their previous collaboration Phantasie Fotostudio, The Esthacus Teichwynd Photos (fusing Spartacus Chetwynd and Esther Teichmann), was made and shown in Berlin in 2007. Utilising photography and collage, these works playfully draw on diverse references, from Walter Benjamin’s essay Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Man Ray and Lee Miller’s solarisations, to Brigitte Bardot as Roger Vadim’s muse, Brook Shields in Blue Lagoon (1980, dir. Randal Kleiser), Satyricon, David Lynch, and Walkabout (1971, dir. Nicholas Roeg). The subjects within these works recall imagined icons, at once beautiful and grotesque, a Frankenstein of moments in modern cinema and culture, each work unique and distinctly archival in quality, as though found on the kind of cutting-room floor you might encounter in a dream. All the protagonists are part of the artists’ circle of friends, artists, curators, musicians in their own right, with the inclusion of family.
Phantasie Fotostudio II brings many of the same protagonists together again along with new collaborators in this Warholesque film montage of extended portraits. Punctuated by the repetition of a crying figure, the film becomes a narrative of gazes, dramatized further by the original string quartet score by Benji Jeffrey, artist, musician and composer, who is also one of the protagonists within the film. Directed by Esther Teichmann, all the subjects selected costumes from Monster Chetwynd’s extraordinary wardrobe, under her careful guidance, with contributions by artist and make-up enthusiast Paul Kindersley. This most recent collaboration features not only a new generation of artist protagonists alongside Teichmann’s and Chetwynd’s peers, but also their own children, both in front of and behind the camera.