How to do things with cameras

Hart, Emma (2013) How to do things with cameras. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The primary site for this research is artistic production, through exhibitions and performances presented in galleries between 2008-2012. The written thesis closely examines the large body of practical work I have made (documented and presented here on a DVD) through discussions with Dean Kenning, a viewer to all the artworks submitted. This is combined with a contextual analysis reflecting on the research behind and ideas provoked by this practical work. The research aims to create an encounter with the photograph or video where the lens-based image, still or moving, is not a window onto a world but operates as a presence sharing the viewer's time and space. I name this changed manner of encounter a live mode of address. I begin the thesis by describing video and films I feel go beyond providing a description and are experienced as a presence. Through looking at the work of Spartacus Chetwynd, John Smith, Laure Provoust, and Ryan Trecartin, I locate reasons for why my concept of a live mode of address happens. I then bring together the different ways it works and greatly expand its limits and possibilities through my own art making. The thesis operates within the field of fine art yet I am challenging the consumption of lens-based images within wider visual culture. This enquiry does not set out to change how the camera works, or question our conventional understanding of what a camera does; its mission is to change how we encounter what it produces. How can I, as an artist operating with a camera - a machine that can only repeat, describe and represent things from the past - engender a live mode of address between a viewer and a lens-based artwork? It is through the production of artwork that this question is explored. In this thesis the artworks are examined in the order they were made, as each one evaluates and takes forward research and ideas present in the previous work. They build on each other to form a cohesive and staged investigation, culminating with my exhibition TO DO (2011) Matt's Gallery. J.L. Austin's theory of performative speech is an important theoretical tool for this thesis. In his series of lectures How To Do Things With Words, Austin asked whether words can produce a reality rather than describe one? I pitch this question not to words, but to the lens-based image and the title of my thesis How To Do Things With Cameras reflects this performative investigation. I go on to examine how the performative use of the camera impacts on a live mode of address and, through considering work by artists including Vito Acconci and John Baldessari, how this must stretch beyond the making of the work to incorporate the artwork's installation. The major element ofthis PhD submission is the exhibition TO DO (2011) at Matt's Gallery, London. Bertolt Brecht's 'Learning Plays' are considered alongside production for this exhibition. TO DO (2011) produces a live mode of address and my examination of how this operates reveals a complicated exchange between the artwork and viewer. The experience of the lens-based images within TO DO (2011) are cut up, fractured, interrupted, non linear and different for each person viewing. They are without limits; they have gone beyond the frame. I describe this as being 'lifelike' - how we experience the world. The term lifelike is normally attached to appearances, which I outline as being the wrong target. A live mode of address has an important relationship to lifelikeness, once lifelikeness is redefined to mean a quality of the encounter.

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