User:Nicole Hametner/Trimester3/Reading, Writing & Research Methodologies 2013-TM3.01

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Self directed research essay

My on going field of interest lies in a comparison of photography and video, from stillness towards moving image, shifting from analogue to digital. The construction of the image and the meaning of it are looked at in a rather metaphorical way and express some philosophical and poetic aspects of its media specificity. For a better understanding of how I got to that point, it is useful to look back at the origin of my investigations with photography and its originated time-based image. During my study in fine art I followed the question why I have that strong interest in photography, therefore I built up a collection with my thoughts of that medium. At that time I printed a work in the darkroom without using photographic fixer, with the result that the images slowly faded away under the exposure of daylight in the exhibition space. Next to that the work of Christian Boltanski inspired me and the theme of disappearance and death inevitably came up while working with the medium. Parallel to this work I was influenced by Roland Barthes writings about his mother, his idea of being present in a photograph without being actually here. Because the confrontation with photography raises automatically existential question, it opens up a big field of other philosophical ideas and this was probably the moment where the essence of the medium really started to intrigue me. In addition I had classes of history of art, where especially the era of the Baroque with the notion of vanitas and later on the Romanticism and its idea of the sublime fascinated me. At that time it was my first encounter with the writings from Edmund Burke (his idea of repulsion and attraction relied very well to the process of photography). The insight in the époque of the Romanticism let me recognize related ideas, an approach that is rather connected to our inner-self than to the outside world, where artists searched besides their contemporary culture inside the nature and gave especially the night a prominent value, as moment to hide from the enlightened cities. To sum up this initial period of research, the theme of disappearance in photography led together with the theme of the „nocturne“ from the romanticism to the subject of the limit of perception. I now realize all the more that without this precedent study I would not have been arrived at my recent examination of the moving video image, which allows me to look at the construction of the image from a new point of view. The crucial unique instant while triggering the photograph turned into duration while using long time exposure, what I used a lot in my previous works. Now through thinking about the construction of the electronic image the factor of time again plays an important role and emerges the idea that the image as such is never present as a whole. A short annotation of Philippe Dubois might clarify that point. He compares the grain as matter of analogue photography with the electronic raster of the video image. “Every point lights only after its antecedent and before its subsequent, which means there is only one point that shines in time” he goes on by saying that, "this alternating illumination and termination imply that the video image as such at no time exists in space, only in time. A synthesis of time, that relies on succession, on endlessly spatial discontinuity. Whereas in photography the image exists entirely in space as in time." This intriguing insight links to the role of the observer, its perception and the question where the actual image is created and what does it mean if it never exists all at once? These reflections about the conception of the moving image increase my interest for the origin of the image which can be understood as foundation that drives me in my research. The following works in progress demonstrate how the previous mentioned field of interest is resumed in two different aspired artistic projects.

This project is an attempt to approach the origin of the image by tie in to self-referential questions. How time behaves in video compared to photography with its petrified frame and what happens with the referent that in photography left its mark on the film only once. What do we recognize while zooming closer in the video or on the other hand blow up the negative? Can we consider noise at the limit of perception as the autonomy of the image? As theoretical reference therefore serves Videophilosophy from Maurizio Lazzarato, he refers to the philosopher Henri Bergson, who also came up while studying Gilles Deleuze's Cinema 2, The Time-Image. With a philosophical approach to the image and the notion of time, these questions then result in a concrete piece of art: Underexposed videos are set against long time-exposed photographs, both depicting the same nightly landscape, with the goal to observe the behaviour of the two media at the limit of perception. This should then open space for associations and invite the spectator to a precise contemplation on the images surface and beyond.

For this project I create a sequence of photographic portraits of women recorded with an additional counter zoom, also called vertigo effect known from Alfred Hitchcock. The result is a change in the perspective and thereby a shifting between back- and foreground. Concretely the photo camera moves backwards while zooming in or the other way around. Afterwards the looped time sequence presents one image after the other with an interpolation between each one to ensure the illusion of a continuous movement. I use this effect with a black background to focus only on the alteration on the faces. The modification of the perspective provokes an illusive movement, barely recognizable. The look in the camera, back to the audience and the slight deformation of the faces have the goal to leave the spectator with an uncertainty about who is the one that is shifting. The implication of the audience and its part while looking at an artwork become all the more important and thereby introduce the theme of the gaze. As references therefore serve literature in theory of cinema, such as Laura Mulvey's Death 24 times a second and Kaja Silverman's The threshold of the visible world. Both are linked to concepts of psychoanalysis and the uncanny, topics that reappear constantly in my work. The uncanny (in German das Unheimliche) is a term used by Sigmund Freud, he defines it as something familiar that suddenly turns into something terrifying, often connected with the hidden in the subconscious. In this project the petrifying act of photography is examined in the animated portraits, where subtle agitations interrupt the stillness of the model and thereby the spectator.

These short descriptions show that the development of the two works functions according to similar principles. To conclude therefore I would like to return again to my methodology, but this time in an attempt to dismantle its single components for a general overview of the abstract mechanisms. What constitutes the concrete trigger for a new project is difficult to define, because everything seems to be affected by the prior body of work. Several interests and points of research over the years have built a background that serves as constant reference and flows into the concrete creation of a specific work. It can be seen as a complex structure, where each part influences mutually the others. For example the project of the construction of the image and the analysis of the behaviour of the medium is based on older photographic works and was then once more animated by curiosity in the digital moving image, what seemed for me to be the counterpart of the stillness in analogue photography. Furthermore the project with the gaze treats with its subtle movement again the idea of presence and absence what constitutes the whole construction of the time-based image. Besides all these connections and as very important part of the procedure is my intuition that always comes along, guides me through each stage of the work and basically holds everything together. Then the combination of different aspects allows slowly perceive the body of work as an abstract idea and consequently guides to formal questions, which are then executed to create the actual result. This division of steps cannot be seen strictly in a fixed order, sometimes, visual aspects interfere while conceptualizing a work and then deviate the whole in a slightly different direction. But mainly the intention-research-combination-formal-execution string helps to recognize certain patterns in my methodology. Personally I feel, that what makes an artwork attractive is not to see behind every detail and that a complete transparency might diminish the works independence, what is in my opinion as important as the input from the artist.