Screen as landscape

Hays, Dan (2012) Screen as landscape. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


People have become accustomed to living with - and inside of - the media screen. Not just in the cinema or living room, but more pervasively with mobile telephones, advertising hoardings, and computer interfaces. It has infiltrated the art gallery, its high definition, contrast ratio and immersive scale tending to blind the audience to its mediating presence. And what about the genre of landscape today, beyond the latest BBC wildlife spectacular, computer simulated Hollywood blockbuster, video game or Google Earth? As the screen populates the cultural landscape, and increasingly mediates between the actual landscape and humanity, where are the points of contemporary artistic reflection on - or resistance to - the screen's increasing ubiquity and transparency? The thesis comprises three components to be taken as a whole: Screen as landscape, an exhibition of seven paintings; Touch screen, documenting the development of practical research; and Screen as Landscape, a dissertation examining contemporary artworks across a diversity of media, including film, photography, printmaking, painting, and computer-generated imagery. Supplementing these, a Guide book offers an overview of the thesis: its origins in an established practice; its developing themes and research methods, emerging out of making and writing; its resolution into three interrelated parts; and its distinctiveness within a range of recent curatorial projects. Echoing the landscape theme, the thesis takes a journeying form rather than being fixed in a specific geographic, art-historical, or theoretical situation. Landscape is salvaged as a live genre for visual art, as a web of interrelated perceptual and symbolic forms that are insistently present. This is despite landscape's annexation as an art-historical anachronism after Post-Impressionism, ripe for nostalgia and parody; its default appearance as seamless photographed or simulated backdrop to fantasies of wilderness and escape; or as a cartographic plane for the projection of information and ideas of control, containment, or exploitation. Landscape is an idea born of familiarity and estrangement, with which artistic interventions with screen technology can actually offer insights. Through its apparatuses - its obstructive lenses and artificial surfaces - the screen can reveal forms of imaging analogous to - yet not identical with - the perceptual and cultural formation of landscape, between experiences of nearness and distance, presence and absence, discovery and loss. Screen as landscape proposes an inter-medial approach, describing a field of contemporary concerns with potent art-historical resonances, harbouring essential questions about human subjectivity in the face of the screen's replacement of landscape with depthless surfaces. For the screen interface threatens subjectivity through the fluid integration of perspectival viewpoints, textual or graphical information, and networked interconnectivity. Through the immediacy of spatial and temporal proximities, and the replacement of physical location by virtual access points, the dimension of depth is increasingly lost to perception. The screen must be landscaped to counter the screening of the landscape - the supplanting of atmospheric, ambiguous, and multisensory encounter. Against the backdrop of cyberspace, it fathomless depths and infinity of virtual frames, Screen as landscape performs a bold or foolhardy attempt on the sheer, inhuman edifice of the screen.

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