I shall be presenting a paper at the “21st Century Photography – art, philosophy, technique” conference on the 6th June 2015 at Central Saint Martins, London. My paper is: “Infinite imaginary: beyond the visual.” Here’s the abstract:
The quest for a complete view is perhaps best articulated in the form of the panorama, a representation of a seemingly continuous whole. In the 21st century the panorama is encountered in multiple ways – through technologies built into modern day digital imaging devices, in virtual computer generated worlds of 3D modelling and games. Even our own movement around the space of a gallery recalls the immersive experiences of early painted panoramas. What links all these experiences is a practice of viewing that is neither stable nor static and is connected to a form of movement. Multiple encounters and multiple events emerge from the movement of viewing that is interrupted by distractions or the shifting of our attention elsewhere. It is as though, in seeking out completeness, we perceive only very limited fragments of experience at any given moment. Viewing is therefore an incomplete event.
This paper will consider whether incompleteness is a necessary part of viewing and whether a photograph is better understood not, as Barthes asserted, as a ‘certificate of presence,’ but in its connection to absence. The paper will ask how can a work effectively describe an absence and whether it is it possible to visually express absence or create a perceptible condition that embodies both presence and absence?
It will be argued that the ontology of digital photography emerges as an ecology of viewing, movement and transmission and that its representational properties are potentially less significant than its affective and sensorial ones. By examining the non-optical function of an image, which exposes the invisible, unconscious connections of the viewing subject, the paper will argue that digital photographs are not discrete flat visual surfaces or material objects. Instead they are considered as a part of subjective events that span physical and psychological experiences. It will suggest that digital photography is less about connections to the existence of actual things or people that are is its subject matter. Rather it will argue that in the space between a photograph and its viewer is a structuring absence out of which a complex of unfinished meanings may arise.
While digital technologies provide a framework for various types and forms of digital images produced, it also allows for them to be transferred into an always-updating, incomplete and infinite network of other imagery. The viewing subject’s interaction with such images is an integral part of the same continuous network of incompleteness. Located as a disembodied subject, like a viewer of the panorama with no centred point, the subject’s infinite imaginary shifts perception to a space beyond the purely visual.
And for those that might be interested here’s the conference programme.