Maureen Muse


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Title: Nostalgia vs. Retroactivity

Summary: How can we account for the continued attraction of analog photography? Is it the direct physical engagement the photographer experiences with the camera when capturing one unique impression of time and light? Is it an emotional resonance created by a media that comes from the past? Perhaps it is inspired by the technical skills and artistry that the analog camera demands — even if many of them only ever required us to just point and shoot…

My work examines the nature of this attraction and questions why, and under what conditions, outmoded cameras still play such an important role in contemporary photography, alongside newer and more technically advanced models.

The research field of Media Archaeology, a sub-discipline of Media History, has provided my research method in examining the parallels and coexistence of contemporary and outmoded media, and this illogical break in the usual linear progress of technology. Rather than study the histories of media in cultural contexts, this is a mode of study focused on non-linear and non-discursive histories as well as material software. Theories presented in Media Archaeology require histories to be understood through the technological nature of the media, the software and the actual material structure of the devices. My work was driven by a number of initial research questions rooted in cultural narratives and research findings that centered on these non-discursive histories.

Entitled, “Nostalgia vs. Retroactivity’, this work questions the emotional quality that is added with older medias. Specifically, it examines the nature of our emotional response to medias manufactured before the user was born, a reflexive, displaced and perhaps mistaken sense of nostalgia.

The camera that was used in this work was itself a family heirloom, which was altered with a set of custom designed filters over the lens. Each lenses was inscribed with the outlines of figures taken from photographs that had been taken with the same camera decades before. Many of the photographs in this work are photographs of photographs from a collection belonging to the previous user of this camera who captured these moments many years before.

The layered image that results might seem at first to have come from the memory of the inanimate device itself. However, it reminds us that the camera is not just as a means of documenting subjects in the present; it is itself a bridge between all of its past users.

Onsite: No (Virtual Residency)

Duration: January 2016

Equipment: Olympus camera, laser cut plexi glass filters

Documentation: Photographs, Write-up