In the Demon Series, Harris explored the psychological distortion that accompanies attacks of fear and panic. Peter made moulded rubber masks and then directed friends to act out his own demons. These performances were documented in photos, which then served as the reference for his paintings. The illogical exchange between the ominous caption and the absurd horror of the image, serves to mock the melodrama that often gives extended life to our anxieties. In Physiognomy – the art of judging human character from facial features – Harris asked good friends and vague acquaintances to fill out identikit forms describing him from memory.
The form he devised moved from questions of a purely physical nature to those regarding the moral fibre of his persona. Harris collated the data, and worked with theatre artist Margita Roth to construct the received personae. He then donned the masks to portray the mixed bag of characters that added up to ‘Peter Harris’ in the eyes of those who took part. The results read like a game of Chinese whispers where the distorted truths of received knowledge are passed on and on. Patricia Niven photographed Harris’s over-the-top renditions of himself, and these images, along with the assembled paintings and identi-forms, serve as documentation of the entire performative act.
Counter, AVCO Gallery, London
26 January – 26 February 2001
Andrew Mummery Gallery
24 February – 27 March 1999