“Forward movement in life is achieved through a backward movement in memory.”
Victor Burgin, 1996, ‘Brecciated Time,’ in “In/Different Spaces, Berkley: University of California Press.
Things have changed. This year (2017) I have been busy. I now spend my time at Birmingham City University where I have a new position. At the moment I am introduced as ‘Head of Photography’ or ‘Photography Programme Leader’ or ‘Course Director for Photography,’ and whenever this happens my instinct is to turn around and look for the person who is being introduced. I believe this a common experience: the one in which we are unable to quite believe we are the person who is being described or introduced. This tends to happen because, as Žižek has shown, the subject exchanges what or who he or she thought he was for a different, even unexpected place within the symbolic order of exchange. This means I find my self identified by a signifier that now, miraculously, represents me. This moment is the act of symbolic castration; the Versagung, the loss of some Thing. The subject, as we might think about one, is located in the gap between the symbolic introduction and the inner doubting mechanism of subjectivity.
This loss is ‘self reflective.’ It happens through a denial of its own enunciation. Such that in being reduced to a symbolic object, one I do not recognise as me, I instantly become aware of my own subjectivity. To be more precise here, I become aware of my own uncertain subjectivity, shifting between the symbolic order of being and my own miss calculations of who I am. In this state, where I conclude that all I have to constitute me is the notion of my own labour power (as defined by this new symbolic objectification of who I am), what remains is a paradox of what I understand of my own subjectivity. This then becomes an experience of alienation.
Despite these manifestations of theory within real life experience, what is actually exciting are the new challenges ahead.
I’ve thought long and hard about photography education. I’ve wondered at its purpose and what it can deliver. I believe now is an incredibly exciting time to study photography. Everyday, I never fail to be confronted by photography in some form or other, whether it be the endless images uploaded by friends on Facebook, the curated Instagram feeds that I am able to endlessly scroll through, the texts I receive supplemented by an image that I ‘need’ to see or the sense that someone, at any moment, is either making or appearing in some form of photographic image somewhere (that moments later will then appear in someone else’s social media information feed). Therefore, more than ever, photography is important and relevant. It can also be, sadly, an impoverished and even overlooked subject to be studying. For these reasons, the BA (Hons) Photography course at Birmingham City University will engage with photography and images in an entirely new and contemporary way.