As I looked at the Cockroaches Diary series from Anna Fox in her website (link) (1), I found the whole set very effective in creating a feeling of repulsion and hopelessness. The images themselves are quite basic and in some cases one cannot see any roaches, but one gets a feeling of their presence through the dirt and grim of the place. They have a point and shoot feeling to them and I am pretty sure they were not taken with any artistic intentions at first. They look like evidence, perhaps to substantiate her complaints to the council, and probably that’s what they were originally. I presume that the artist’s personal motivation for keeping this diary was probably therapeutic, as a way of having a record of this seemingly surreal situation where her housemates and the landlord (the council?) seem to ignore the seriousness of the issue and fail to provide any solutions. The diary and the images complement each other perfectly and the value of each document separately is lesser than as a whole.
There are other works by Fox which similarly draw on personal experience to create very effective documents that can resonate with others. The series 41 Hewitt Road (link)(2) seems to me like a further exploration of the setting for the Cockroaches Diary. The images have a similar point and shoot quality to them and the place looks as chaotic and run down as in the roaches series. It is an exploration of a living space, her leaving space, but in the statement she makes reference to an imaginary setting, a seemingly abandoned house, and she sets the whole series as a journey of discovery, almost in an archaeological sense. In many ways, most of us end up living surrounded by chaos, be it because we are disorganised, do not have time to clean everything regularly or simply because of neglect. But chaos can also be in our minds, with worries and concerns that are of no importance but end up accumulating there. Over time, our lives get used to this chaos and our living spaces, be them physical or mental, become a bit like 41 Hewitt Road even though we may not recognise or accept this. To be confronted with these images, as produced by Fox, brings up down to earth and allow us to confront that chaos and decide if we want to accept that or change.
Continuing with the exploration of her personal experience, I was particularly taken aback by My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words (link) (3) which combines pictures of very organised cupboards full of housewares with abusive text (see for example this and this other one), allegedly taken from Fox’s father rants. The peace and order of the cupboard pictures, as well as the cursive front used by Fox for the captions, contrasts vividly against the violence of the words. It all seems very innocent from afar, but after close examination of the pieces, once one reads the text, the whole set becomes alive as the scene of a domestic fight, including the silent witnesses (usually the kids), in this case represented by the inanimate inhabitants of the cupboards.
(1) Cockroach Diary : Anna Fox. 2018. Cockroach Diary : Anna Fox. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.annafox.co.uk/work/cockroach-diary/. [Accessed 03 February 2018].
(2) 41 Hewitt Road : Anna Fox. 2018. 41 Hewitt Road : Anna Fox. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.annafox.co.uk/work/41-hewitt-road/. [Accessed 03 February 2018].
(3) My Mother’s Cupboards : Anna Fox. 2018. My Mother’s Cupboards : Anna Fox. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.annafox.co.uk/work/my-mothers-cupboards/. [Accessed 03 February 2018].