Extending the use of vernacular photography

by Luhsun Tan

Institution: Monash University
Department: Department of Fine Art
Year: 2015
Keywords: Vernacular photography; Post-colonialism; Hauntology; Dutch East Indies
Record ID: 1039875
Full text PDF: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/1134643


This project examines the limitations imposed by photography as an apparatus for enabling memory and the archive. Also questioned is how the archive has been interpreted and used to illustrate the past into a fixed historical continuum. Here memories become determined as past events being prescribed by a politics of representation. For the archive, this is a loss of historicism that directed the research into examining how photography might evoke and reclaim meaning back into the present. The archival material I have used is a trace of decolonialism remembered through personal photographs, as detailed at length by a prisoner of war who perished in the Dutch East Indies during World War Two. An intangible relationship to the past is identified that engages the image as a discourse into the present. As a strategy to engage meaning, an approach to the image exploring phenomena is taken so as not to constrain the past by exclusion. The methods applied were based on interference and the materials’ ghost as a way to elicit the image’s voice. Thus my research explores real images both within and beyond the frame. Creating a new relationship with these materials became a basis for appropriation, interaction and opening up a temporal space for ongoing discourse. I have therefore explored different approaches and interactions as a way to engage the meaning of otherwise inert materials. The methods that have been explored identify the past as a way to progress from the limits of defined visual and historical structures. It is my intention that future encounters with ever-going accumulation of images might consider similar strategies.