University of Tasmania
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Attention to distraction : a visual investigation of temporal experience through time-based media

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:25 authored by Sawford, RG
This project has explored the relationship between the moving image and temporal experience. Acknowledging the constructed temporality of narrative cinema, in conjunction with what Peter Osborne has described as distracted perception, I have examined the potential for the moving image to direct attention to the here-and-now. What began as an attempt to provide an antidote to the condition of distraction through contemplative immersion evolved as a reflection on the temporal dialectic of contemporary experience. The project's concern with temporal experience is based on my response to working with narrative forms of the moving image in a commercial context. Drawing on anti-illusionist strategies of the film-artists of the 1960s as well as representational aspects of commercial production has resulted in work that embodies the inherent tension between these conditions of spectatorship, simultaneously heightening and dissolving temporal perception. The visual context for the project is defined by the work of contemporary artists who also deal with the potential for the moving image to both absorb and distance viewers. This has been explored through a selection of specific works by Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Chantal Akerman, Christian Marclay, Douglas Gordon, Tacita Dean, Daniel Crooks and David Claerbout. These works challenge viewing habits and expectation through strategies of duration, re-contextualisation and re-examining the configuration of normative cinema. In developing a theoretical understanding of the relationship between temporal experience and conditions of spectatorship, the project has been informed by Walter Benjamin, Tom Gunning and Sean Cubitt, writing on the relationship between narrative and non-narrative forms of cinema. These concepts have been further developed through Michael Fried's theory of absorption and theatricality and Peter Osborne's writing on attention and distraction. A philosophical understanding of temporal experience has been explored through the existentialist thought of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The work developed as a combination of gallery-based and site-specific artworks that include single channel projections, multichannel installation, panoramic photography, live-feed cinema/installation and augmented reality. This broad, experimental approach is the result of exploring the moving image beyond the confines of linear cinematic structures. These diverse outcomes have been refined in the context of the Plimsoll Gallery for the submission exhibition. By developing strategies that examine the relationship between time and the moving image the project has concluded that to offer a contemporary experience of the here-and-now, the work must fluctuate between states of immersion and awareness; between attention and distraction. Here, the inherent tension activated by the intersection of these temporal states directs audience attention toward the potential of a moment.


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