Digital Media, Memory and the Photograph

I am currently in Canberra, where I am enrolled at the School of Art
as a Phd candidate. After a couple of meetings today to discuss my
directions for research and practice, I feel that many of my original
ideas appear to have been cast away as new ideas begin to percolate
with the promise of experimentation and discovery.

Last week I was in Wellington, New Zealand for a symposium on
mobile art. It was until I went to the Te Papa Museum that I
realised the enormity of the threat that earthquakes posed to the
country. This has got me thinking about how when looking at archival
images there is a kind temporal shift. Past and present move like tectonic
plates, one over the other, creating tensions that pull the images forward
rather than take the viewer back.

Perhaps it may be the case that some choose to ignore these tensions
and look only ahead in order to avoid  the past rocketing towards them
and shaking up their perceived grip on the present. I am curious about
this tension as I look at the only photograph of myself as a young child
(pictured above with Mother and sisters). How do photographs manage
to carry out this piece of magic? When I was a child, we would get two
empty baked beans or soup cans, secure a piece of string to the bottom
of each, and create walkie talkies. I can still remember the sound of my
sisters voice vibrating across the taught string, as if travelling from
another planet, and bearing the heavy echo of it’s owners voice, which
sounded distant yet the physically present.

In my Phd I have set out to explore the ways in which digital media can be
used by artists to create dialogues around memory. Considering that much digital media is screen based, lacking the tactile nature and established grammar of it’s  cousin ‘analogue photography’. I am curious to how this new medium can be massaged and manipulated to tell stories and/or share personal and collective memories.

As our family photo albums give way  to the seduction and convenience of the digital realm, our photographic artefacts are now leaving the physical world to find refuge in the virtual land of binary code, pixels and  computer networks. So what are the implications for our memories, which now drift on the winds of social media, destined to travel through the time until eventually dissolved by the introduction of a new technology that will render older images invisible. Will technology decide what is remembered and/or forgotten? Is there a new visual language emerging that will give us the vocabulary required to write and read with digital tools? What are the digital aesthetics of memory and are they a product
of our visual literacy or an entirely new language?

These thoughts, though random at the time of writing this post, need to be
documented as I work towards developing my creative experiments and writing my exegesis. At this point in time my thoughts are scattered as I sift through all the possibilities and opportunities that present themselves on this Phd endeavour.

I guess it’s back to the books and trying to articulate exactly what questions I need to ask. In the meantime I will be producing some  video and photographic experiments which aim to exploit the unique opportunities presented by  digital media.

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~ by Dean on November 30, 2011.

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