The big picture: the party’s over, but whose party? | Art and design

Anne Hardy’s photograph invites us to make up stories. What has kicked off here? An end-of-term physics department knees-up? An unfinished experiment into big bang theory employing party poppers and plywood? A chain-smokers’ convention? The circuit diagrams on the blackboard appear to offer some clues, but on closer inspection they seem to be mind maps for systems we can’t quite fathom. And what of the demon bunny on the shelf?

For years, Hardy has created such fictional rooms in her studio in Hackney, east London, mostly out of rubbish she has found on walking tours of the streets nearby. Sometimes, she makes casts of the things she finds and uses the cast in her pictures. She has habitually spent months putting a room together and then, when it has felt complete, she has photographed it and moved on to the next set of found objects. In recent years, she has created some rooms as installations and allowed visitors in, leaving their shoes at the door. She says of her work that she hopes it is like “pulling up the lino in your kitchen and finding another five layers beneath”. She was supposed to be a scientist, she adds, but became an artist by accident.

Hardy’s photograph features in a book called Making It Up: Photographic Fictions, edited by Marta Weiss, curator of photographs at the V&A. Weiss argues that, though we have always tended to look to photographs for factual reality, the urge to create fictions with them is as old as the medium itself. Her history of freeze-frame tricks of the eye begins with gelatin-plate fantasies and ends with the emergence of digital techniques that allowed any kind of make-believe. Hardy’s picture closes the book, with its intimations that the party’s over.

Making It Up: Photographic Fictions by Marta Weiss is out now (£24.95, Thames & Hudson in association with the V&A). To order a copy for £21.46 go to or call 0330 333 6846

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