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Units of description: writing and reading the ‘archived’ photograph

Units of description: writing and reading the ‘archived’ photograph
Units of description: writing and reading the ‘archived’ photograph
This practice-based PhD takes the institution of the archive as its primary locus, and the position of the photograph within it. This approach opens up an interdisciplinary and post-representational investigation into the photographic image and its relationship to the companion descriptive text, as well as instigating a consideration of the structure and the management of both objects and descriptions in an archive situation. More specifically, the model of the visual content-based archive description is taken out of the confines of the institution and into visual practice. Different kinds of sets and collections of photographs are examined here, as well as traditional archives, but all through techniques of archival description, listing and organisation.

The restricted institutional language structure becomes a conceptual writing technique when employed within this archive-related art practice. Positioned outside of the field of hermeneutical image analysis, this writing system is a form of information management, and, following archival conventions, does not attempt to assign meaning to the objects with which it engages.

The practice predominantly takes the form of moving image or performance, always with text present (written or spoken). The image itself, paralleling a common archival situation, is often hidden or obscured, and the description allows a novel exploration of the image to take place and to be discussed. The largely decontextualised type of visual content-based description used emphasises the discrete and atemporal nature of the photograph and the synchrony of the moment of capture. It is acknowledged though, that the message and meaning of the single image is located outside of this moment of capture, and so may be subject to some speculation. The spatiotemporal context of the image, denied by the visual contentbased description, is brought back through ‘reading’ the archived image in its natural habitat, the archive list or catalogue. This relational situation reveals the fixed associations between images themselves and between images and their wider organisational structures.

The description is ultimately identified as a ‘narrative pause’ (Fowler: 1991, p.25), and is celebrated as such. Inside the indexical and diachronic arrangement of the archive, images and descriptions are viewed through something other than a narrative gaze, as lists, and the juxtapositions therein, expose the acutely shallow time and non-chronological advancement of the archive.
Birkin, Jane
30ada6e1-9603-4a9c-9159-8297758817fe
Birkin, Jane
30ada6e1-9603-4a9c-9159-8297758817fe
Parikka, Jussi
cf75ecb3-3559-4e53-a03e-af511651e9ac

Birkin, Jane (2015) Units of description: writing and reading the ‘archived’ photograph. University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art, Doctoral Thesis, 182pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This practice-based PhD takes the institution of the archive as its primary locus, and the position of the photograph within it. This approach opens up an interdisciplinary and post-representational investigation into the photographic image and its relationship to the companion descriptive text, as well as instigating a consideration of the structure and the management of both objects and descriptions in an archive situation. More specifically, the model of the visual content-based archive description is taken out of the confines of the institution and into visual practice. Different kinds of sets and collections of photographs are examined here, as well as traditional archives, but all through techniques of archival description, listing and organisation.

The restricted institutional language structure becomes a conceptual writing technique when employed within this archive-related art practice. Positioned outside of the field of hermeneutical image analysis, this writing system is a form of information management, and, following archival conventions, does not attempt to assign meaning to the objects with which it engages.

The practice predominantly takes the form of moving image or performance, always with text present (written or spoken). The image itself, paralleling a common archival situation, is often hidden or obscured, and the description allows a novel exploration of the image to take place and to be discussed. The largely decontextualised type of visual content-based description used emphasises the discrete and atemporal nature of the photograph and the synchrony of the moment of capture. It is acknowledged though, that the message and meaning of the single image is located outside of this moment of capture, and so may be subject to some speculation. The spatiotemporal context of the image, denied by the visual contentbased description, is brought back through ‘reading’ the archived image in its natural habitat, the archive list or catalogue. This relational situation reveals the fixed associations between images themselves and between images and their wider organisational structures.

The description is ultimately identified as a ‘narrative pause’ (Fowler: 1991, p.25), and is celebrated as such. Inside the indexical and diachronic arrangement of the archive, images and descriptions are viewed through something other than a narrative gaze, as lists, and the juxtapositions therein, expose the acutely shallow time and non-chronological advancement of the archive.

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More information

Published date: April 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, Winchester School of Art

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 377132
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/377132
PURE UUID: e3dea154-5afc-4f19-bac3-41cb565eee04
ORCID for Jane Birkin: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6025-9300
ORCID for Jussi Parikka: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2248-6377

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Jul 2015 15:04
Last modified: 08 Aug 2019 00:32

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