Shape me into your idea of home : representations of longing in contemporary photography and video practice

Harmsen, Corlia (2011-03)

Thesis (MA (Visual Arts))--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Includes bibliography.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is motivated by an interest in a host of idiosyncratically interrelated phenomena that can be understood, in my view, as symptomatic of a primary interest in representing experiences of affect, loss, alienation and objectification of an “other”, which in turn, necessitates a critical interrogation of the notion of self. These phenomena include notions of the body (animal and human), private and public spaces, voyeurism, transgression, desire, fetishization, sentimentality and most critically, nostalgia as understood through experiences of homesickness and heimwee. My focus is on the affective potential of contemporary lens-based (photographic and video) art. I approach this study by way of three central ideas: the longing for home (the relationship between self/space); the longing for the body (the relationship between body/self); and the longing for the other (the relationship between self/other). I make use of psychoanalytic and feminist theory, as well as theoretical interpretations of photography and screen-based media, in the broader context of visual art and culture, to frame my discussion. As such, this study draws on the theoretical work of Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag to introduce basic concepts such as the relationship between photography and memory, and develops these to include ideas of the gaze, self and alientation from the self read through Judith Butler and Jacques Lacan’s image of the mirror phase; home and homesickness read through Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud’s notion of das unheimlich (uncanny) and Julia Kristeva’s notion of abjection; and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s objectification of the animal-other. This study is intimately linked with, and critically informed by my personal artistic practice, which focuses specifically on the photographic or filmic representation (projection) of separation, displacement and longing for an absent other (home, partner & domestic animal). I discuss my own work relation to selected examples by artists including Shizuka Yokomizo, Sophie Calle, Penny Siopis and Jo Ractliffe, among others, framing the art object and related processes as cathartic, mnemonic and talismanic; acknowledging the paradoxical aspect of photography as simultaneously distancing and acting as a trace of the real; and analysing the evocative (metaphorical or conceptual) allusions made possible by lens-based processes and their presentation as print and projection, image and screen.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: My navorsing is gemotiveer deur ʼn belangstelling in ʼn menigte idiosinkratiese onderling verbonde verskynsels wat myns insiens beskou kan word as simptomaties van ʼn primêre belangstelling daarin om ervarings van affek, verlies, aliënasie en objektivering van ʼn “ander” weer te gee. My fokus sal op die verband tussen kontemporêre kuns en affek wees. Hierdie onderling verbonde verskynsels sluit in: die self en nosies van “die ander”/aliënasie, identiteit, die liggaam, die verbeelding; veiligheid, die huis, huishoudelike ruimte/plek/ontheemdheid; beheer, grense, oortreding, voyeurisme en geweld; verlange, nostalgie (heimwee), misnoegdheid; verlies, gemis, rou, woede, depressie met inbegrip van melancholie; liefde, romanse, sentimentaliteit, kitsch, besit; begeerte, obsessie, objektivering, tot fetisj maak (met inbegrip van objektivering van die huisdier). Ek benader ʼn bespreking van bogenoemde verskynsel deur diskoerse van psigoanalise en feminisme binne die raamwerk van my navorsing. Ek beoog om, met behulp van psigoanalitiese teoretiese verwysings, in hierdie verhandeling die verlange na die huis (die verband tussen self/ruimte, hoofstuk een), die verlange na die liggaam (die verband tussen liggaam/self, hoofstuk twee) en die verlange na die ander (die verband tussen self/ander, hoofstuk drie) te verken. Ek sal voorbeelde van kontemporêre fotografie en videokuns, asook voorbeelde bespreek om kontekstuele verwysing na ʼn bespreking van die uitoefening van my eie kreatiewe kuns te verskaf. Ek sal die uitbeelding (projeksie) van skeiding, ontheemding en verlange na ʼn afwesige ander (huis, maat en huisdier) bespreek. Die veld van my teoretiese ondersoek sal put uit sleutelteorieë van Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, JaquesLacan, Julia Kristeva, Gilles Deleuze en Felix Guattari, Martin Heidegger en Judith Butler ten einde basiese begrippe in gebruik te kan neem soos die verband tussen fotografie en geheue (die kunsvoorwerp/proses as suiweringsmiddel, mnemoniek en besitter van bonatuurlike, veral beskermende magte), paradokse in fotografie, uitbeelding en verlange/aliënasie, huis en heimwee (die bonatuurlike, ellende), kontemporêre kuns en affek, die starende blik en die objektivering van die dier-ander en die stemmingsvolle (metafories of konseptueel) sinspelings wat deur fotografiese prosesse en aanbieding (druk en projeksie, afbeelding en skerm) moontlik gemaak word.

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