Introduce combines sculpture and photography. Wiltshire studied sculpture in the mid-eighties and became proficient with sculptural techniques across a wide range of media. At this time she also became interested in how she could bring together the physicality of sculpture with the flat planes and illusory properties of photography. She used the photograph as a sculptural material and experimented with cutting and tearing, curving and shaping the flat planes of the image into three-dimensional forms. With ‘Introduce’ Wiltshire wanted to transform the photograph into something that could confront the viewer and impinge upon their physical space. She used photography as a sculptural medium.
Introduce formed part of a body of works that Wiltshire produced in the early 1990s, which played with the ambiguity of gender. These works explored how our gender identity impacts on our experience of viewing and mediating the visual world. Whilst living in Liverpool, for example, she developed a series of sculptural works called ‘Flipping Further’. This involved layering photographs of neoclassical sculptures in the Lady Lever Gallery, Port Sunlight, with images of fur. She used domed glass to obscure images of the sculptures genitalia to make it impossible for the viewer to identify whether they were male or female.
Wiltshire was interested in the way that, in these works, the domed glass magnified the images and made the work protrude out towards the viewer. For her this was reminiscent of male erections and therefore how sexuality is physically asserted by men. With ‘Introduce’ she wanted to use this method to instead make a strong statement about the presence of female sexual desire. She found a piece of domed glass at a London kiln, and made the frame herself to fit. The work was hung low to suggest a pregnant stomach, a vulva, or a tip of a man’s penis protruding out towards the viewer. Wiltshire aimed to emphasise how women could also project their sexuality and physicality outwards in the physical space. Though images of pregnant women’s bodies are now commonplace, at that time it was extremely rare. Wiltshire suggests that profound discomfort around pregnant women’s stomachs was linked to the protrusion, which confronted others with the physical presence of a women’s sexuality in a way that was uncomfortable at that time.
Wiltshire has never revealed what the photographic image behind the glass is. Her intention is to play with and exaggerate the ambiguity of the image. She invites the viewer to draw upon their own gender identity and preconceived notions of gender to interpret what they are seeing. She also wanted to suggest an eye, looking back. This was intended to force the viewer to be aware of the act of looking, and to make them more aware of the sexual associations of the image.
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society in 1996.