The early modern and modern periods have been singularly concerned with authenticity, attribution and verification. The striving for proofs of value has served to continually underscore our culture’s growing obsession with the triad of progress, evidence and objectivity. Naturally, these larger cultural themes are often reflected in artwork in all media. Sarah Rounding can count herself amongst the artists currently exploring these topics on a deeply personal level. Her work reflects a self-described obsessive need to document and concretise the traces of her presence in the world.
In her 2006 piece ‘The artist’s hand’ Rounding has cast the action of drawing – arguably the keystone of an artist’s skills. The work is reminiscent of the plaster casts used on an archaeological dig where proofs of existence and presence have to be reconstructed and restored in order to be understood. Similar themes are at work in Rounding’s film and performance work, which often seem to grapple with her sense of a ghostly double or doppelganger that flits in and out of view. This is clear in two pieces from 2007 entitled ‘I hate that you lost me’ and ‘but what if you don’t find me?’. Here the artist is concerned not only with the theme of loss but also, more poignantly, with the evidence for her own existence. In ‘I hate that you lost me’ Rounding uses CCTV footage to trace her movements (and disappearances) around the city of Hull. The footage is a means of searching for her visible and thus authentic self. Likewise, in an attempt to elicit a response from unseen forces for proof of her own authenticity, Rounding’s performance piece ‘but what if you don’t find me?’ involved placing missing posters of herself along a route that she walked at least twice everyday. Sarah Rounding’s own subjectivity seems to form here a kind of contemporary vanitas: a reflection on absence, presence and – ultimately – mortality and a forensic attempt to immortalise her own existence.