A Naïve faith in images: indexicality, silence and fabrication in the construction of narrative
AuthorRodriguez Chaves, Emanuel
AffiliationVictorian College of the Arts
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Emanuel Rodriguez Chaves
A Naive Faith in Images explores the veracity of photographic and pictorial documents presented as information in the public realm, that is in the media, public institutional archives and broadly in historical documents. The research examines the role that memory and narrative play within discourses of conflict and the construction of histories. Specifically, the project addresses how contemporary art establishes and negotiates relationships between philosophical aspects around the manipulation of images and socio-political imaginaries (the values, systems and symbols common to a particular social group) to construct new narratives. Thus, the exegesis is based on three structural streams of inquiry, that of image interpretation (W. J. T. Mitchell, Hans Belting, Jacques Ranciere, Susie Linfield, Vilem Flusser), image collection and archival practices (Georges Didi-Huberman, Hal Foster, Aby Warburg, Peter Osborne) and an expanded notion of painting (Isabelle Graw, Gerhard Richter). Two historical cases are provided to create a blueprint, used to scrutinise the structural streams of inquiry, as they posed specific problems in regard to the use of images and image interpretation. I was motivated by their geographical, political and ideological relevance. One instance is factual and delves into the investigation of the murder of Viviana Gallardo, a Costa Rican leftist militant and activist who was shot in prison and whose persona was exploited by the conservative right-wing ideology of the time. This case is of significance to the overall project, as it examines how images are used to manipulate discursive narratives. The study follows the ways in which the narrative of this recent event was constructed from a multiplicity of interpretations, such as that from Gallardo’s family, friends, ex-militants and the generally uninformed public. The second case manufactures the story of Svetoslav S., a fictional painter whose life and work explore the role of art history in the play between politics, identity and the indiscriminate use of images. In this research, the first case study is embedded in the notion of the image as an index, covering the complexities this assumption entails historically and the consequences it presents in a particular context (Costa Rica). The second case serves to question and bend the latter assumption by placing the character within a global narrative that has affected the western historical construct. It also explores the role of the artist as a manipulator of images, through the potentialities and contradictions underpinned by an extended notion of painting, as well as the different identities that can be created from the mix between fiction and factuality. Both cases show us phenomenological aspects of images—the platforms and contexts in which particular images have portrayed events and individuals; as well as highlighting the level of engagement audiences have when interacting with different versions of a single event and how these have an effect upon the understanding and creation of history. On an individual level, I was interested in how differently I interpret and manipulate particular images—those that have an impersonal relationship to me—my connection to them and my subsequent artistic response. In opposition to this, I will show the effect that other pictures with more personal and sensitive subject matter can produce and how this affects my relationship to them and the subjects that these represent. In one instance, I became an interpreter, in the other, a medium or mediator.
KeywordsImage Theory, Expanded Painting, Cultural Studies, Latin America, Political History of Latin America, Contemporary Art, Costa Rica, Emmanuel Rodríguez-Chaves, Emanuel Rodríguez-Chaves, Painting Theory, Iconology, Iconography, Image Interpretation, Ideology
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