I have started to make whole head casts for a project called Shadow Citizens, and in this letter I write about the project in response to an inquiry about my Craigslist advertisement for volunteers to make a head cast:
I can appreciate your questions about the sensitivity of any project that has to do with human subjects, and especially immigrants, some of whom are so incredibly vulnerable right now. Any information my models give me is kept strictly confidential through the guarantee of a model release form- I actually dont need a name- all I really ask for is a set of initials to keep the work anonymous. This particular ad is a variant that asks for immigrants, others are asking for artist models or non-voters.
My project is called "Shadow Citizens" because I want to create an artwork about the variety of people who are on the margins of "official political society". Of course immigrants are only one 'group' (and many of them are not really politically marginal at all!), as others range from convicts who have not have rights restored, to citizens who have decided to opt out. So 'Shadow Citizens' is an imprecise term, self -defined, and other than being politically marginal in the sense of voting, they may have nothing in else in common. Part of my interest lies in understanding the phenomenon, so I can figure out what to do with the casts, but right now I am talking with my subjects to get to know them, concentrating on molding technique, and eventually creating concrete casts.
Because I am not a Shadow myself, and I could be seen as a privileged observer, I am reluctant to create a work that in any way creates attention or profit for me. I would like to be able to give back more than the $50 fee to my subjects, and hopefully I will create some better form of engagement with them, but I want that to emerge from the work (which has just started).
You ask about the 'meaning'- I suppose I think of the "meaning" as a monument or a document of the society we live in that has such strong paradoxes. On one hand people who are apathetic or resistant to exercising their rights, and on the other those who very much desire to be full participants. I care about and empathize with all of these people and I want very much to bring the viewer to that emotion, and that is why I have chosen to use actual visages- which I think can be more moving than words. That is what I am trying to say- but seeing comes before words!
The work may be located secretly, to be found over the years. (I say that, but I am not sure yet.) I promise if you let me cast your head, I will keep you informed about what happens to it!
I hope this helps to answer your questions. I welcome more questions, ideas, and dialog about the project.
Best, David Finn