In her series called Guess Who Loves You, the artist Jo Ractliffe photographed certain objects almost as if recording the “evidence” of a special relationship: it was the relationship between herself and her dog, Gus. She photographed nine of Gus’s chewed-up toys. “These are toys that cemented the relationship between artist and dog,” said one writer, “gifts returned as offerings, sanctified tokens of extraordinary affection.”
Each toy is separately portrayed, in minutely observed detail, and then almost absurdly enlarged – as if examined, not through a microscope but through a telescope. At that scale, and because each image focusses our gaze on a single, isolated, and strange object, each becomes like an icon, or reliquary, almost a sacred thing.
But another way of seeing them, photographed as they are with no context, against a white background, is as laboratory specimens. In a laboratory context, the familiar becomes monstrously unfamiliar. What do they make you think of?