Colin Gordon

The Vortex

About This Collection

It wasn’t until the early 90’s that the body count of people dying of AIDS began to escalate. I managed to escape it, but the sudden death of a friend left me feeling what I can best describe as the person who walked away from a plane crash. I’ve since heard this described as survivor guilt, but what I felt at the time were sorrow and rage and I wanted to show it. I wanted to make something that was about people, but not a day in the life of anyone, but more symbolic; universal in a sense.

The inspiration came from medieval woodcuts. At that time, when people were illiterate, they learned by example and through pictures. Produced by simple woodcuts, small printed books on a range of subjects were popular. Some, in effect morality tales, were also used to instruct. My aim was not to preach, however, but to involve the viewer in a drama, a morality play where they could decide how they might act in a similar situation. I decided to make the whole drama about one person represented by 4 characters, each embodying an aspect of that person: energy, control, vanity, and emotion. The situations arose by asking the question, in what kind of crisis would each of these capacities work best and worst and most importantly, what does the viewer think?

Ultimately, the project was a failure. Six pictures were completed before I suffered a breakdown. But out of that series came the one that, for me sums up the experience of that darkest period; the haunting image ‘To Sink or Swim’.