University of Tasmania
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We can always go back: nostalgia and the poor image

posted on 2023-05-25, 09:05 authored by Neil HaddonNeil Haddon

This research takes Hito Steyerl’s (2009) conception of the ‘poor image’ and conflates it with the meagre images of nostalgic memory. For Steyerl a ‘poor image’ is an impoverished copy of a long-distant original which has been transformed by multiple modes of sharing. The degraded image is the result of the dispersal of a digital media image (be it online or otherwise) by ripping, editing, printing, uploading and sharing. This research proposes that nostalgic recall, often referred to as aesthetic memory, shares a comparable process of deterioration. This is explored using painting and digital printing, within the genre of geometric abstraction. It takes as its subject an instance from the author’s past when an inadequately reproduced image of a painting echoed his own fallible memory of that same artwork.

These artworks are inferior copies of an original painting made in 2001 by the author. The first is a large-scale painting made from a low-quality catalogue reproduction and incorrect image details that accompanied an exhibition of the original painting at the MONA, Tasmania. This copy is then reproduced as an inferior painted ‘detail’ and then finally as a poor-quality inkjet print. The abstraction of the painted works echoes the eventual visual abstraction implicit in Steyer’s formulation but complicates this by ‘fixing’ the deteriorating surface beneath a veneer of slick highly polished lacquer. This alludes to the workings of nostalgic recall which attempt to fix an ever-changing original event or place. The deterioration is amplified by the installation of the works both in the main gallery and public lavatory of the venue.

The significance of this research is demonstrated by its inclusion in the exhibition ‘Beyond the Field (still)’ curated by Dr Anne Mestitz at Contemporary Art Tasmania and the Moonah Arts Centre. This exhibition explored the supposed ongoing influence of the 1968 Exhibition ‘The Field’ at the National Gallery of Victoria.



paintings and digital print


School of Creative Arts and Media

Event Venue

Contemporary Art Tasmania, Hobart and Moonah Arts Centre, Moonah

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

The creative arts

Usage metrics

    Non-traditional research outputs



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