Blurry photographic profile image of an elderly man with white frizzy hair against a black background.

Shift, Inkjet Print, 2014

Image Description: Blurry photographic profile image of an elderly man with white frizzy hair against a black background.

Within my practice of photography, video, and installation, I work with archival materials to consider formal and conceptual components of still and moving images, recalling, often invisible aspects of identity, history, and memory. I’m interested in the politics fixed in materials that are classified as archival and dictate a singular perspective of history. Often, once the mechanics of representation and the subjective nature of archival records are revealed, a tension that undermines the authority of an image is produced.

Shift (2014-ongoing) considers these representations as large-scale film stills that articulate a body turning in space. Each print is comprised of up to 48 still frames captured from an archival 8mm film. The still frames are then layered to form a single image. The painterly quality of the prints expose structural breaks in the film, distinguishing the frailty of the medium, the moment and movement. With these images, rather than represent a singular truth, I seek to articulate the fluidity of memory, identity and perception.

The physical act of turning depicted in these images was informed by the writing of Feminist theorist, Sara Ahmed. She suggests that the space that one’s body inhabits becomes a ‘question of “turning,” which not only allow the unknown to appear, but also enable us to find our way through the world.’1 Metaphorical queering of the body and dis/orientation of space are reoccurring themes throughout my work, and are especially important to me as I consider the gaps between perception, cognition, memory and the subsequent unreliability of each.

Description of work: Shift is a series of large-scale photographic works that each shows a blurred portrait of a figure. Each photographic print is comprised of up to 48 still frames captured from an archival 8mm film and layered on top of each other. The results are abstracted and blurred faces that look more like paintings than photographs and reveal the “structural breaks in the film.”

Curatorial reflections

Lindsay Fisher: I really hooked onto what she describes as “the authority of the image” in this work.

Vanessa Dion Fletcher: Yes the authority of the image. She breaks down the image by showing, by revealing the film stills. We see film and video as a whole, when infact it is made of individual still images strung together. So what she’s doing here is breaking out all the individual parts of this image and then layering them back to together. I think it’s an interesting deconstruction of an image and of a body.

Because her deconstruction of the film still is representing a body it makes me think about how this deconstruction relates to the body. We have this idea of the body as a whole entity that’s separate from everything else with its clear boundaries of where it begins and ends. In this work Jennifer Martin is revealing that what we see in film that appears as a singular image is actually made up of many parts. This relates to our ideas and images of our bodies, as being defined as singular entities with boundaries.

LF: Yes, she makes me think about the fact that when we look at an image or film, we don’t see the mechanics of that image. There’s the sensation of being suspended in a seeming reality or in her words, a “singular truth”. So when we look at images, we’re emotionally captivated by them in a sense that they seem ‘real’ and we’re not experiencing the material of the object or the fact that, like you said, they’re made up of many parts. By layering the multiple frames, she’s bringing to the surface that materiality and in doing that, she’s breaking apart the “singular truth” and in the process revealing many truths or no truths.