Material tensions
: a practice-based study of the tension between the 'material' and the 'image' in digital moving image art

  • Emile Josef Shemilt

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This practice-informed research is an exploration of the tension that exists between a representational image and the material of its construction in moving image art. In this thesis, I discuss the viewer's role in perceiving and sustaining the tension. In developing this research, I have created three moving image artworks in digital media. Inspired by Jackie Hatfield's statement that 'the ascendancy of any one theory, history or lineage ... is due to the scarcity of writing relative to other art forms' (Hatfield, 2004, p.14), I describe this tension in moving image art in relation to the art forms of sculpture and narrative. Contemplating the viewer's attempt to perceive an illusion despite an apparent awareness of a work's material form; and discussing the viewer's attempt to perceive/construct narrative from a restricted number of elements; has enabled me to establish a background to the research. It is reinforced with reference to Peter Gidal's Theory and Definition of Structural-Materialist Film (1976) and his statements such as 'the attempt to decipher the structure and anticipate/ re-correct it ... are the root concern' (Gidal, 1976, no page number). In further developing the viewer's role in perceiving and sustaining tension, I relate this concept to my own practice. As an artist, I am interested in the represented presence and absence of the human form. Inspired by my early practice as a sculptor, I discuss the viewer's perception of tension in relation to the tensions inherent in the materialist conception of being. I then develop this idea in relation to my three moving image artworks created to further this research. In this instance, I discuss the viewer's perception of tension in relation to the psychoanalytic process of 'projection' and discuss the conflict between what is seen and what is perceived. To conclude the research, I discuss how accepting different elements from different directions is part of the creative process. As a way of emphasizing the viewer's role in perceiving tension, I use the final chapter of this thesis 'Developments on the Research' to argue the persistence of tension in other artworks.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAnna Notaro (Supervisor) & Nigel Johnson (Supervisor)

    Cite this