KATIE COOKE – BALANCING ACT **** AXOLOTL GALLERY, EDINBURGH
TAKING the concept of suffering for your art to a whole new level, Edinburgh-based photographer Katie Cooke produced the long-exposure photographs in this exhibition between two major surgeries on her hip.
Using a home-made pinhole camera she photographed herself with various props and in various poses, but rather than using any scientific measure for calculating the correct length of exposure she used her body as a timer – the shutter would only remain open as long as she could bear the pain of standing up. The artist describes the process as "trying to make images at the very edges of my ability to do normal things." All of which could perhaps be written off as a gimmick, were the resulting images not so spellbinding.
The most remarkable shots somehow manage to suggest snatched moments of movement, even though the exposures that produced them must have lasted for several minutes. In The Force of Light, it is as if Cooke is being knocked sideways by an unidentified light source in the top left of the picture; Urdha Hastasana is a reference to a yoga pose, but everything about it is so fluid the subject seems to be dancing rather than stretching.
The series concludes with two pictures, Vertical I and Vertical II, which record the moment Cooke stood again for the first time after her final surgery. The first image shows her with crutches, the second without, and there's something unnervingly precarious about them, even if you don't know anything about the circumstances in which they were made.