Strangely Familiar: A Visual Dialogue

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Strangely Familiar: A Visual Dialogue

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Title: Strangely Familiar: A Visual Dialogue
Author: Hellis, Margaret
Abstract: How we see defines what we see: vision is organized by the conditions of our existence, by history and by context. For myself, my journeys in and through photography are in some ways liberated by this knowledge, in the sense that if I bring an awareness of this conditioning and relationality to my work I can aim to disrupt the ways the camera can extend privilege, power and objectification. This project is situated as an artistic intervention in practices of looking particularly while traveling, an intervention driven by the acknowledgement of these structures of power and regimes of seeing and the incorporation of such back into photographs taken while traveling. Building upon the intellectual work of Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Jonathan Crary and Elizabeth Edwards, this paper examines the potentiality of photography as both technology and as artistic tool, as well as the implications of its uses in either regard. This paper is accompanied by an installation of images-not of 'photographs' but of 'artworks,' where the term 'artwork' is deployed to name these pieces' explicitly conceptual rather than perceptual nature. Through the melding of images from Bangalore and from Seattle as the first part of the exhibition, and through the 'opening up' of images from Sierra Leone as the second part of the installation, this exhibit aims to provoke a remaking of memory and a foregrounding of photographer as author and organizer of vision. This installation encourages viewers to reconsider the uncomplicated consumption and digestion of visual cultural information. These images do not aim to erase or elide the unease of seeing and cataloging of difference, but rather in foregrounding these practices and the regimes of cultural knowledge that scaffold them, they gesture toward a more ethical attending to the politics of looking and the experience of subjectivity. Ultimately, this project aims to pry open greater possibilities for ethical action in this building of a space for visual dialogue.
Description: Winner, 2012 Library Research Award for Undergraduates, Senior/Honors Thesis Division

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