Gillian Wearing

Self-portrait of  my brother, 2003

There’s an art to making things look real. This is a self-portrait of me as my brother, getting ready to go out to a club. It’s a recreation of a snapshot that my mum took of him in about 1990. I’m wearing a silicone body suit, a mask and a wig.

There’s a lot of detail in there – the stained tracksuit bottoms, the clothes on the bed, the glass of beer on the side. I am quite a perfectionist, so it took three or four months in 2003 to prepare. Even the pants had to be perfect.

I used a better camera than my mum had, but because she still had the original, I could study the way the flash fell away from the ceiling. Luckily, it’s the same house, and it hadn’t been refurbished, so I didn’t have to recreate that. Wearing the body suit, however, was difficult. My brother is not that much taller than me but he is a lot broader, and the suit weighed a ton. It was sculpted in that fixed position, so I couldn’t move. The mouth of the mask was closed, so I was breathing through the nostrils. I remember thinking I could only last about 10 minutes, even though I had to make it look like a natural hair-brushing session.

I got a photographer friend to take the pictures, while I directed him by mumbling or writing things down. Once you take silicone off, it stretches; I probably wouldn’t have been able to reshoot without having another cast made. Trying to recreate a snap that originally took a few seconds required about 13 rolls of film and five or six hours.

Interview by Leo Benedictus in The Guardian, Thursday 9 April 2009

Self-Portrait as my Father, Brian Wearing, 2003

Self-Portrait as my Uncle, 2003

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