The Production of the Subject through
Space, Architecture and Image
PhD Viva completed 2020-2021
Production of the Subject through Space, Architecture and Image
My research addresses our physical and psychical being in space and the space of representation, through the contrasting mediums of sculptural form, image, and text. Central to this is the photograph – understood by Vilém Flusser as a ‘technical image’, the product of an apparatus, yet one that unavoidably reveals our deepest investment in their content as viewers.
I explore the material condition of the photographic image as a means of engaging the modalities of desire at work in our experience of images, as well as approaching, indirectly, the associated realms of the body and architecture – both of which routinely feature in the photographs I consider, but also influence my project more broadly on the level of praxis. If I choose to prioritise the virtuality of the image over a seemingly more authentic ‘direct’ experience of the built environment, this is not as a surrogate but a mode of experience in itself – a means of placing myself at the intersection of the corporal and cognitive, examining the threshold between what is seen and what is felt.
This thesis proceeds accordingly along two parallel creative paths. My artwork on the one hand consists of drawings, sculptures, and installations, which intervene in our immediate architectural environment through a language of constructed spatial abstraction derived, in part, from forms found within the images I collect – images which are then often recycled back into works as another sculptural material. My writing, on the other hand, attempts to penetrate these same images with, as it were, the eye of
language, in texts that examine details within (and without) the pictorial frame, through close descriptive and free-associative accounts of both their content and materiality.
These affective encounters are best served by an image that is not my own. Rather than make photographs, I submit to the world of images (as symptoms) through their various ‘secondary’ forms of reproduction; sifting through books, journals, and magazines, in search of an image that makes – and leaves – an impression, before appropriating it, either by reproduction, typically in the form of a photocopy, or by simply tearing out the page. Such treatment extends to the ways in which I approach the image – in practice, and theory – rejecting any imperative to interpret or critique the specific historical or social context to which a photograph may refer, leaving these instead to recur in phenomena.
If, as Jean Laplanche suggests, the passage to the unconscious is correlative with a lost referentiality, then this is on some level what occurs as I devolve the consequences of the image into the material effects of my own viewing, reading, and writing, as well as by extension, that of the reader/viewer, shifting the politics of the image – and the desires occasioned there – into the ongoing negotiation of space, structure and image. Following this logic, the contribution to knowledge here is one shared, grasping the materiality of the image in terms of its affect, and witnessing how we are all produced in the alterity of representation.