The Family of King Charles IV, 1800
In 1980 Clegg & Guttmann embarked on a photographic project focusing on the relationship between power and its representation. For this research, the artists immediately took up the stylistic elements of official portraiture, particularly those of Baroque art, from Frans Hals to Rembrandt, Titian and Caravaggio. […]
The first lesson on which Clegg & Guttmann based their artistic consciousness is that historical depictions and family portraits have always striven to offer an ostentatious presentation of the individual in an environment that reveals his or her cultural, economic and social milieu. This photographic set-up survives in the contemporary world in the annual photo portraits of the employees of large corporations, and thus the duo used this as a direct source from the very beginning of their collaboration.
Gulf businessmen have always been stereotypically portrayed as wearing traditional wear as a cheap Hollywood joke, but recently this trope is actually being used promotionally by the establishment in the region as a way to distinguish the now-powerful Gulf businessman as being part of a shiny new national brand. “National wear” has become an icon of wealth on one hand, as well as a link to “pure” Arab roots on the other; a win-win situation, acutely differentiating between the privileged locals, usually in managerial or administrative positions, and the expats, usually on the lower rungs of the ladder. We are interested in labor being seen as a suggestive act, with the emphasis being placed on the ritual of work, rather than the result. And the vagueness of working anonymously, or without having clearly prescribed roles, allows us to explore these themes further.