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  • Discourses of photography in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection: the living bird

Pasquier, Edith, 2019, Thesis, Discourses of photography in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection: the living bird PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

The research delves into the figure of the wild bird as through an encounter between a museum — the Victoria and Albert Museum — and an archive — the photographic collection of the Word & Image Department at the V&A. The research asks why we select photographic images, how we write from photographic images and
how we 'listen' to what we see. It queries the photographic collection in the museum as a site of 'live' readings,
writings and listenings to images. The research explores the ontology of the photograph in tracing the wild bird
in the museum's photography collection, and considers the relation between bird, photograph and writing as correlations of memory in an archive.

The context of the research is threefold: to understand what a figure can be through the 'voice' of the wild bird, and thus enquire about the concept of 'voice' within human-animal and non-human animal relations; to consider the museum, archive and curated collection as a site of encounter, as a repository of knowledge and histories, individual and collective and to raise the ontological claims of photography as a site of writing and to re-mark again the performative possibilities of writing and photography. The question is whether the writing of an archive, a collection, can be marked by the presence of a living figure — human or non-human, and, in
this instance, the wild bird. What is at stake is that the 'liveliness', the restlessness of an image is adhered to, and the photographic object is lifted from its place as a document within the archive into writing, into the event of language, where it can be registered and rethought.

To the ontology of photography, the essays and autobiographical work of Walter Benjamin hold a key focus, as do the early pioneers of photography such as William Henry Fox Talbot, and contemporary practitioners.
The philosophical writings of Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida and Yve Lomax impart an exigency to the figure of the wild bird. The photograph as a site of 'live' writing and presence is marked by the writings of Gaston Bachelard, Maurice Blanchot, Eduardo Cadava, Luigi Ghirri, Seamus Heaney, Jean-Luc Nancy, Juhani Pallasmaa, Peggy Phelan, Olivier Richon, Denise Riley and Kaja Silverman. The 'voice' of the bird as a figure of thought is informed by Tim Birkhead, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Mark Cocker, Michael Longley and Alice Oswald.

The process of the research is framed through the phenomenology of the reverie. It is through the properties of reverie — nonlinear, fragmentary, restless, contemplative, fleeting — that the writing attends to the photographic object, the museum's collections and the figure of the wild bird. The thesis is written in a varying 'focus' that intertwines the readings and writings of images: a gallery of wild and captive birds from the photography
collection of the V&A Museum from 1850 to the present day. 'Birdsong', 'Bird-Voices' and 'Hallucinating a
Hawk' impart the idea of voice in the figure of the wild bird, through the presence of language. 'Bird-Watching' returns to the gallery of birds, looking beyond the collection of the museum to writing as a site of presence and recovery. The 'walks' within the V&A Museum and grounds manifest the performative qualities of the photograph
and attend to what resides in the periphery, in the margins and at the intersection of the frame.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W640 Photography
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2019 17:18
Last Modified: 20 Mar 2019 17:18
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3867

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