The gender politics of infinite detail and the archival ad infinitum in transcendentalist photographics : from origins to structuralism
The thesis constructs a filiation relating transcendentalist photographic practices. The historical span stretches from the early nineteenth century inventions of photographies (Daguerre, Arago, Talbot, Hill, Holmes), through American modernism (Stieglitz, Strand, Weston, Adams), and ends with structuralist film and photographies (Frampton). This lineage is argued to mark significant shifts in the gender politics of the transcendentalist impression of the photographic archive. I argue that the filiation is underpinned by major photographic forms of infinity: detail and proliferation. Within the gender-political context of their archival dimension, these forms are compared to major philosophical forms of infinites (in Plato, Longinus, Virgil, Burke, Kant, Hegel). The thesis marks the dismantling of this tradition through the feminine coding of the archival ad infinitum - extending canonical feminist thought (Irigaray, Kristeva) into photographic history via a deconstructive methodology (Derrida, Felman, Lyotard, de Man). The key theoretical contention of the thesis is that the ur-scene recorded by photographic and philosophical discourses is an encounter with and retraction from infinities which are figured in gendered terms. This traumatic encounter is argued to be the archival motor which produces material archives. The thesis tests the relationship between this motor and the gendered impression of the social circulation, storage and dissemination of images produced by a given photographic practice. The practical aspect of research is engages with the social circulation and storage of art through the photographic. These works hazard critical purchase in the residual archival ambience of Minimal and Conceptual art. Practical and theoretical work are linked by two main issues: an attention to affects associated to the dissolution of concepts, by which unity becomes fragmented, particularised and thus, an attention to 'the detail' as a form of (feminine) contingency. Key here is the quasi-concept of the 'impression' (Derrida) - the precise impact of a vague image of conceptual unity.