Exploring art and dance in photobooths

Sophie Curzon-Siggers.

Sophie Curzon-Siggers.

Photobooths were once as common a sight on our railway station platforms and shopping centre plazas as food vending machines and bank autotellers.

Beloved of young lovers and wobbling drunks alike, they offered three or four sometimes blurry, usually black-and-white, often embarrassing passport-sized photographs for something around a dollar.

Protected by a below-waist curtain and sitting on a swivel stool, the subjects were caught in the blinding flare of a flash in few takes, all in the space of a couple of square feet.

In the age of the mobile phone and the selfie, they have all but vanished from our lives. Romantically preserved in the plot of the French film Amelie, there are perhaps two or three left in Melbourne.

She is opening her exhibition Truth or Dance in the 2017 Ballarat International Foto Biennale. It’s a yearly exploration of her dance practice, conducted in the restricted spaces of a series of restored vintage photobooths in the Italian city of Florence.

"It's kind of passion project for a team there; they restore and then put around Florence traditional silver gelatin photo booths - the sort of the prints that you were getting in like the 60s, the 50s," says Siggers-Curzon. 

"They all differ; they're not the same booth everywhere. I did over 80 photo strips last time. It is a challenge to the camera, but also to the small space. I had to work out how to use it. There was so much experimentation and I was finally getting the kind of results that I wanted, I mean that's the great thing about there's always a surprise here. “

Curzon-Siggers moved to Clunes in 2012 with her wife Adelaide to escape the costs of living in Melbourne. She lived on her father’s property in a caravan.

She says her art practice, while it appears curious to some, is about freeing the idea of dance to take place anywhere and at any time.

“I don't dance in any professional way, but I've always danced; it's always been really important to me,” says Curzon-Siggers.

“I currently do ballet and have for years. Movement has always been so much a part of who I am. I’m a very physical person, and having a chronic illness that's very much suppressed.”

When she was 18, Curzon-Siggers discovered she had glandular fever and then developed chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) and fibromyalgia. She says it’s been the defining factor of her entire life. But being unable to work in a conventional sense meant she was able to explore her artistic desires, and follow her vocation as a poet – one who writes and is published in both English and Italian.

“I'm really interested in always have been interested in Christian theology and spirituality,” says Curzon Siggers.

“That makes it sound serious, but it's more about the symbolism and how you reinterpret it, create something that's really immediate.

“I've got so much more Italian work that has been published in terms of book form. My English manuscript that’s about to be published is called Saints in Formation: in every sense of formation, as in that period of development; and also that link between what it's like to be an artist and being in the world and the links that there are to saints. I'm all about finding all the underlying links between things that are not visible and how they kind of create meaning, basically.”

Curzon-Siggers’s exhibition Truth or Dance runs until September 17 at the Local Cafe, 313 Lydiard Street North. Her website is https://poesiautomatica.com/