AD7802 – Research and Context

Practice description – Film and photography practice investigating personal and cultural ideas of memory and loss using still and moving image methodologies to construct narrative and portraiture.

Photography practice FILM ESSAY – RED TREAD

 

Research Bibliography

Practice description – Film and photography practice investigating personal and cultural ideas of memory and loss using still and moving image methodologies to construct narrative and portraiture.

Barthes, Roland, (1978) ‘Diderot Brecht Eisenstien’ in, Barthes, Roland, Image Music Text, Fontana Press: London, England

A professor at the College de France until his death is 1980; Roland Barthes devoted much of his career to the research in lexicology and sociology. Image Music Text, a collection of essays is regarded as some of his finest work on Film and Photography. Within this body of work are 2 of his the most academically acclaimed pieces; ‘Introduction to the structural Analysis of Narrative ‘ and ‘Death of the Author’. ‘Diderot Brecht Eisenstien’ a rather technical and didactic piece, it’s relevance here is important for the references to personal and perceived meaning, and construction of tableau.

Cathedral of the Pines (2017) [Exhibition of Photographs by Gregory Crewdson,] Photographers Gallery, London, 23rd June – 8th October 2017.

Gregory Crewdson is an American photographer renowned for his cinematically constructed photographs. Acclaimed for previous bodies of work including Beneath the Roses, Crewdson builds film-scene- like sets that construct a tableau. This exhibition is the first time Crewdson has show in the UK and it is the first time the Photographers Gallery has given over all of it’s exhibiting floors to one artist. For the shooting of ‘Cathedral of the Pines’, Crewdson returns to a place of his childhood and produces his typical images of haunting scenes. The subjects (he uses family and friends not actors) appear disconnected and void of emotion. The complex narratives are there for our interpretation, but seem heavily influenced by Crewdson’s sense of self in relation to his place in society and his past. The documentary interview, which was part of the exhibition, revealed Crewdson’s interest in the subtle use of familiar every day objects in his images. Amongst other things, pill bottles on side-tables, dowdy blankets and dressing mirrors are a contestant within the images. For Crewdson and for us, these objects are signifiers that can transport us back to times and places within our own memories.

Eisenstien, Sergei (1986) ‘Colour and Meaning’ in Eisenstien, Sergei, The Film Sense, Faber and Faber: London, pp 92-122

Sergei Eisenstien, born in 1898 was a filmmaker and film theoretician. With early significant black and white film productions such as Strike and Battleship Potemkin, he became acclaimed for his film production techniques that would appeal to all senses not just intellect and emotion. His work The Film Sense discusses the mechanisms of montages to construct film art. The chapter ‘Colour and Meaning’, as with the other sections, has not dated in it’s relevance to the construction of message by the film maker of today. The considerations of yellow may seem somewhat labored and there are many ancient colour theories references. However, the point Eisenstein makes is that the ideas that colour prompt towards understanding of meaning are not limited to the discipline of film, but seem more generally applicable to the creative to look beyond the surface to a deeper appreciation of the work.

Hirsch, Marianne (1997) Family Frames, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.

Hirsch, a leading academic in the research of memories and the transmission of memory wrote this important book on the considerations of photographic representation and the construction of family relationships. Hirsch looks at how photographs can have the duality to represent for us a sense of cultural social security, and at the same time mask social failure and dysfunctions. Hirsch’s observations on the salvaged photographs of the Holocaust and the transmission of memory through to generations who can not remember any atrocity, is a powerful example of the way in which collective history and private memory are linked. Hirsch recounts her own instance of this as immigrant Jew settling as a child with her parents in America. Their neighbors were Auschwitz survivors and in their home she remembers seeing photographs of their families that had been killed in the camp. Memories of these images and others photographs that presented death with links in her own history of relatives lost to the Holocaust have prompted Hirsch to coin the phrase ‘post-memory’. This she describes as a memory “memory shot through with holes”, that is a fragmented and second-generation transmission of memory.

Kuhn, Annette (2002) Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination, Verso: London, England

At the time of the publication of this book, Annette Kuhn was the professor of film studies at Lancaster University and the editor of the film journal Screen. This book provides a great example of Kuhn’s authoritative writing on the concerns of visual communication, cultural and personal histories. This work is very poignant for research into childhood memories and filmic representations of the past. Her autobiographical referencing is both very brave and moving.

Lowry, Joanna (2006) ‘Portraits, Still Video Portraits and the Account of the Soul’ in: Lowry, Joanna and Green, David, eds. Stillness and Time: Photography and the Moving Image. Photoworks/Photoforum, Brighton, England, pp. 65-78.

This essay forms part of a significant collection of work; Stillness and Time, edited by Lowry and Green which has become a ‘go to’ for anyone interested in the relationship of the still and moving image. Among many of the contributing authoritative theorists, Joanna Lowry, an academic at the University of Brighton, contributes an essay concentrating on the questions surrounding the still video portrait. This is a poignant piece of work to consider when looking at the way in which we react as an audience to the moving portrait. A stimulating essay which helps one reflect on the impact of performance on the perception of the audience. There is an extremely relevant reference within this writing to the work of Fiona Tan and her exploration of memory and identity.

Nostalghia , 1983, Directed by Andrei TARKOSKY, [DVD] , Curzon Artificial Eye: London.

‘Nostalghia’ is a film produced by the late Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky. It is a film of beautiful cinematography, which is typical of the film productions by the acclaimed Tarkovsky. The film was the second to last movie Tarkovsky made, but the first of all of his movies to be made outside of Russian, so there are interesting influences from the new landscape (Italy) and issues around the liberation from his home regime. The film skilfully uses colour and pace to evoke ideas of memory, isolation and disconnection. The film switches from colour to sepia footage throughout, the monochrome poignantly signifying the protagonist’s memories of his home country. The film requires one to patiently concentrate on the nuances of sequenced frames and the slowness of pace. Tarkovsky uses this to construct a charged atmosphere, leading one to pressing questions of the narrative. To this end the viewer may feel frustrated, as Tarkovsky clearly saw his films, less conventionally, as works of art than as movies to entertainment.

Turkle, Sherry (2011) Evocative Objects: Things We Think With, MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England.

The author of this collection has skilfully managed to present a body of work, which is both complex and absorbing. For each of the thirty-four essays she has carefully married a significant passage of text from philosophy, literature and theory. These connections, especially in the chapter, Objects of Mourning and Memory, provide thought provoking contrast and comparison. A passage from Susan Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ leads us into a very personal account by Stefan Helmreich of his Grandfather and the SX-70 instant Polaroid camera and how the association of family/kinship and object (Polaroid photograph) can evoke memories of perceived relationships. Equally as contrasting is the text by Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space: The Classic Look at How we Experience Intimate Places and the essay by Glorianna Davenport, Salvaged Photographs. The first reminding us how we are transported by family snaps to a motionless time in the past, which we project onto our ‘store of dreams’ building not a reliable history of memories but a poetic translation of lost expectations and dreams. And on to Davenports essay which starts with the account of a carefully archived box of family photos being destroyed in a fire. This incident, which many of us can relate to, looks at how with the loss of our keepsakes, old personal objects and photographs from our past we loose the connections to our current future interests and activities. The many accounts in the book of recollections from childhood that are hauled from our subconscious by the unexpected encounter with an every day object are fascinating, the personal connections with objects that lay in our subconscious and all at once spring to our minds with nostalgia and a complex poignancy.

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