Bernzerk (aka Bernie Clifford) is a creative thinker, an entrepreneur, an artist. His photography is bold and accessible, very much like his personality. Bernzerk creates work that challenges social norms, gender norms and disrupts preconceived notions of the male gaze in photography.
This is Me… Any More, It’s You… a series of photographs of women from a range of ages, nationalities and different lived experiences as ‘women’. The photography adorns the walls of POME creating one wholistic, compelling work of art. Photographed by Bernzerk in his home, the bodies and personalities of these subjects form an impressive and arresting assemblage when viewed in the salon hang. The works are of differing scale and a combination of black and white and colour works, creating an unusual visual hierarchy within each portrait series.
The women loom large in each frame, the beautiful detail achieved through the use of a medium format camera. Bernzerk has created images reminiscent of boudoir and pinup photography, ensuring our interest in each scene is piqued by the notion of developing nudity. Catherine, Sasja and Letti-Bella, challenge the viewer (or the man behind the camera) with an intense gaze, a demand for you to look, rather than an invitation.
This richly layered, complex series of portraits documents women in three stages of undress. With each stage of progressive undressing, the sitter has selected their level of body exposure and their own conscious engagement with objectification. This is sex-positivism writ large, each suite of images making a powerful statement in which we catch glimpses of the personality of the women, each demonstrating an awareness of their own sexual persona. It is evident that the subject’s awareness of the process of the portrait and the expected stages of undress, consequently, allows each individual a high degree of control of the resulting image.
The drive of individuality is evident not only in the choices in the poses of the models, but the alternative approach to exhibiting. Bernzerk has stepped away from the white walls of the contemporary art gallery and uses POME to immerse visitors in an alternative world. These portraits are an extension of the performance based surroundings in which they are installed. They form a fleshy backdrop to the stage, with musicians performing in front of the works and many of the burlesque style poses of the subjects could almost be in response to the music.
Palace of Magnificent Experiences is a multi-arts exhibition and retail space with bar services. Described as an art deco meets Twin Peaks space in the heart of Richmond, the space hosts performance of all forms in the luscious surrounds o fa bar-come-gallery. A place where every visitor contributes to the performance and become participants in an immersive experience.
Cherie McNair is an independent arts manager, based in the Snowy Mountains of NSW.