Stephanie James

United Kingdom (residence) °1957


Exposition: The Photogram as a Domestic Diary (01/01/2013) by Pamela Salen
Stephanie James 16/12/2013 at 11:46
Pamela Salen’s interests and the methods that she uses to explore her memories of the ‘homes’ she has lived in are pertinent in current thinking and practicing on the subject. The exposition is engaging the reader in a series of approaches; story-reading, dream analysis, the making of artefacts through the production of photograms, defining contemporary contexts and is inviting a consideration of how lines of connectedness run through the research in reconstructing spaces from memory. Salen reveals a heightened sense of awareness and her ability to relate metaphorically through connecting people, places, the warmth of the day, the light in the room, all of which is unravelling her own autobiography. Carl Jung aptly plays an important role model for Salen through using his dream analysis as a methodology in her own practice.  Attempts to understand the nuances in the different aspects and use of ‘home’ and ‘house’ provide insight into how the artworks are generated.
What is valuable to the research subject is how ‘home’ is understood by Salen – ‘a specific form of experience whereby the autobiographical story can take centre stage.’  The reader understands that house is merely a concrete solid structure yet home is where the experience is played out and is not delegated to structure in the object sense but that object-sense is enmeshed in the memory. The photogram is the method by which Salen explores this intimate autobiography-creation, it draws in the light and exposes an interior sense in several ways; depiction and image, spatial construct and a process in making that through chemical reaction reveals the light that has ‘touched’ the paper. The photograms are cast in flesh-like warm tones, which enhance a sensual interiority relating to one’s mental and emotional being. The images are not crystal clear; they are impressions exposed mirroring the way memories are formed in the minds-eye. The photogram; for the process in which it is created, is chosen rightly as the materials and processes convey meaning and reflect the thought processes.  The co-dependency of the made artefacts and the theoretical thinking is well defined with an analysis of the photograms as outcomes providing deeper understanding.
This investigation will certainly be of interest for PhD students using the ‘home’ as a place/space for research. Weaving as a methodology for interrelating disciplines such as; psychoanalysis through the study of dreams, visual art practice as research, camera-less photography and creative writing, creates new understanding.
The seemingly separate relationships in the exposition are drawn out in an inspiring and complex way, which is ideally open-ended affording the reader with much to think about and connect to. Carl Jung and Anais Nin are both significant to the research, for Nin descriptions of places are often connected to ‘childhood separation. The open-endedness of the methodology impacts on the findings in this exposition in a positive way, it invites the reader to participate in the investigation; researching, thinking through and resolving. Ideas and understanding are contemplated in Heidegger’s concepts of the ‘home’ residing in the mind and inseparable from thought. Salen’s attention to ‘home’ provides an in-depth explication, which supports her research inquiry. The historical context is provided through the inclusion of further influences such as artist, Uta Barth.
The research issues are contextualised in a range of ways; through psychology, art practice, literary sources and historical references. Psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s development of therapies for his patients using dream analysis is the most significant context for Salen’s research. Particularly connected is Jung’s analogy of the ‘house’ as a metaphoric place of construction of the self. Salen herself identifies with this in her approach to research methodologies and creates, like Jung, ‘objects’ that communicate, and for the protagonist, ‘act out’ the ideas.
The author’s previous artworks demonstrate that this exposition is part of a much larger journey into what is an expansive research project that creatively changes as it encompasses new theories and ideas around the importance of dreams and how they generate new material for exhibition, and develop knowledge and understanding.
The exposition proposes an interesting set of reflections on a period of investigation and research. The photogram technique contains the very essence of memory making; the images contain a sense of continually ‘becoming’ rather than permanently fixed. Salen has exploited the photogram not only for the indexical nature of photography but also for the imprint: the developing, appearing, emerging memory of the constructed room.
The strength of this project is that it is on-going; fluid in its approach with evolving resolutions emerging in various forms as it proceeds.

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