Freya Copeland (born 1990, London)
‘No Backbiter Bent’, 2016
I am primarily Interested in archival systems, documents and evidential photography. My work as an artist
explores the boundaries between institutional systems and personal narratives. Constantly drawing from any
transitory written or printed matter not intended to be retained or preserved, police evidence and pictorial
encyclopedias, I am predisposed to singling out the inherent limitations of the photographic medium and how
I might use these restrictions as a vehicle for exploring a personal narrative. I am Co-founder, Co-creative
director and Co-curator of the Berlin Based artist edition, Replika. As a New Zealand Artist living abroad, I
am particularly interested In the ways in which amateur photographers have historically contributed to New
Zealand’s national identity by way of the archive as opposed to other nations’ relative visual proficiency. I
have been living and working in Berlin, Germany since 2011 and am a current student at BTK University of
‘No Backbitter Bent’ is a series of photographs which highlight particular motifs through the
application of 1920s-1950s amateur advertising photographic techniques in order to tell a personal
narrative of fear and disillusionment.
As one of many affected by sexual assault, I have developed the totally irrational fear of the “bad
man” who at any moment might pose a threat. Now, as the man convicted of my assault is finishing
his probation period, I have been thrown back into the memories of the event. What I find most
striking about the entire ordeal are the inconsistencies with my own memory and my assumptions
of the importance of specific details and that of the responding police officers, detectives,
translators, lawyers and judges involved in the case.
As I was disappointed with being told that my attire, attitude or his race were the critical details, I
have repurposed the imagery and symbols I encounter when I dream of the event so as to retain
power over that which I find important. By singling out symbols of metaphorical weight with the aid
of analogue retouching techniques I am removing certain objects and images from surrounding
context in order to illustrate the absurdity of my fears. The photographic images are taken at the
location of the attack in question and are symbolic reminders or triggers of what is, for many
women, a common experience, yet these symbols remain easily recognizable and open to
interpretation only supplying small glimpse–like clues that the viewer must explore in order to
reveal the narrative. The use of a non-art applied technique – hand-retouching of 35mm negatives
– alludes to similar techniques used in evidence photography so as to prompt the viewers sense of
unraveling a crime.
The series of photographs are accompanied by 23 copied e-mails sent between myself and the
prosecutor with certain details removed echoing the photographic images and moreover, the ways
in which our mnemonic devices physically function.
The Title ‘No Backbitter’ Bent is influenced by the poem ‘Come Close’ by Sappho; a couplet
directed at “the killer of my character” declaring a lack of vengeance.
By way of News paper-like rasterbation, the works should be installed large enough to highlight the
low quality of the pushed 35mm film as well as to invite viewers into a dream-like memory. The
emails should be framed in such a way that they become a valuable document uncovered from an
archive. Additionally, I would be pleased to include the original painted negatives once mounted in
glass mounts. These too should be presented as archive documents.