4. Beside, on the other side, 2019 - 2024
In September 2019, the artist began a PhD at the Belfast School of Art, in collaboration with aemi (artist experimental moving image) and under the supervision of Aisling O'Beirn, Dan Shipsides and Willie Doherty.
Our experience of the moving image is intimately connected to our experience of place (Garfinkel & Rhodes, 2011).
Analogous to the processes of mapping, film is understood to be concomitantly natural and constructed; both perceived as mediums of truth, yet burdened by the creator’s hand. These shared attributes between the moving image and geography were first given form by Walter Benjamin, and more recently, Giuliana Bruno, who coined the term “modern cartography” (2018).
Paralleling cartography’s positivist view of representation, the inception of photochemical technology had been seen as the holy grail of objective representation. Increasingly however, practitioners such as Biemann, Castaing-Taylor, Dean, Huyghe, Paravel, and Rivers, working at the cross-sections between contemporary art, documentary and film, have employed film to depict the hybridity and layering of place and space; that is, place at different points of history. Looking beyond the reproduction of place, these spatial practices are grounded in invoking the fragmentary, uncertain and ultimately, fraught natures enmeshed in spatial knowledges. Such bodies of work [A Journey that Wasn’t (Huyghe, 2006); The Green Ray, (Dean, 2000); Leviathan, (Castaing-Taylor & Pavel, 2000); L’Ellipse, (Huyghe, 2008); The Forgotten Space, (Sekula, 2010); Two Years at Sea, (Rivers, 2011)] often shift the emphases towards a more processual understanding of moving image. Thus, the inherent temporalities of film are brought to the fore, casting light on and manipulating its ability to invoke multiple spatial and temporal detachments simultaneously.
In response to Kerry Brougher’s essay on ‘Art and Film Since 1945: Hall of Mirrors’, writer Catherine Fowler identifies several recurrent techniques in artists working with film in the gallery, including: “look[ing] back at moments that have now passed”, “[a] sense of loss (of potential, of an ideal, and of wonder)” and most pressingly, an ambition “to break film down as if to reduce it to its most fundamental component” (1996). Whereas conventions of film have been forward-looking, marked by an increased speed and determination to do more with the image, mirroring an accelerated culture, some artists working with moving image have turned the camera in on itself, employing retrospection and reductivism as the basis of a practice. This inversion, can be likened to the use of anamorphosis within avant-garde painting, designed to subvert and disorientate a classical sense of perspective.
As cartographic representations are bound up by the time that they exist within, so too filmic representations are marked by the period from which they emerge. The looking back that Fowler refers too, bears resemblance to what film theorist Vera Dika names the “returned image” (2003); broaching art practices that either directly or indirectly draw upon and (re)present past film images. This motif signals a dissolution of film as a linear organising structure of space and time, and from which, a new form of dialectical moving image emerges that couples disparate, and at times, fragmented positions. In viewing filmmaking through the lens of a spatio-temporal praxis, the dislocation of filming apparatus, editing, form and movement induce a friction that ruptures the representational surface and delineates the consistency of narrative time and place.
This project investigates how early filmic representations, in parallel to cartographic tools have framed our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world [from the practice of ‘précinéma' to the medium’s inception [Muybridge, Lumière Brothers, Méliès] and early visual anthropological films]. Engaging practitioners who employ reductive and subversive filming approaches, the research is motivated in bringing forth the fluctuation and ephemerality of place and space; such as Tacita Dean’s use of photochemical technologies to represent, or even non-represent, natural phenomena like the green ray. These praxes are investigated in relation to readings into spatial disorientation, a term that Schmidt di Friedberg explores as a condition of the contemporary era. In viewing artist practitioners in this field against the backdrop of disorientation, the artist aims to engage the ways the medium is reorienting spatial narratives, producing understandings that are aware of their own limitations, more relational, and multiplicitous.
Adopting and expanding upon these approaches, and employing analogue filmmaking technologies as a research tool, Doyle is constructing moving image works that investigate the filmic handling of place. The practice-led research uses anachronistic shooting instruments [such as the Bolex H-16; a hand-wound 16mm film camera], ambiguity of specific location and the appropriation of realist aesthetics, such as the long and fixed shot, to navigate spatial and temporal relations, of physical landscapes and film. Reworking early filmic technologies, the camera serves as a tool to examine and subvert methods used to author space; focusing on subjects that embody multiple spatial and historical detachments, such as the colony of wallabies inhabiting the Isle of Man.
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