Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.802897
Title: Beyond the photograph : the phenomenon of confabulation in family photography as counter-memory, narrative and archive
Author: Biró, Eszter
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: Glasgow School of Art
Date of Award: 2020
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Abstract:
This practice-based research studies the oral performative-interactive register of family photographs, with a focus on excavating private memories and forging them into counter-narratives observed through the 20th century Hungarian historical context. The premise of the research – that there are meanings outside of the photographic frame – follows notions of – Barthes’ ‘punctum’ (Barthes, 1982), Hirsch’s ‘postmemory-work’ (Hirsch, 2012) and Langford’s ‘oral-photographic framework’ (Langford, 2008). I use the term confabulation to nominate the combination of two significant aspects of storytelling: the act of ‘going beyond the photographic frame’ and the act of filling in missing narrative-memory gaps with new meanings. My hypothesis is that confabulation, through conversation around photographs, gains access to the performative-interactive-register of family photographs; it reveals shadow archives and catalyses their content, that act as counter-memory. The research also engages with Vilém Flusser’s theory (Flusser, 2000), suggesting that confabulated counter-narratives are tools, which work against the programme of the photographic apparatus. The research asks how does confabulation, through affecting reading and editing, excavate the private content of family photographs from shadow-archives and transform it to counter-memories? In 1945 the Soviet army liberated Hungary and stopped the Nazi deportations and executions; simultaneously the communist regime socialised properties and kept citizens under control by the Secret Police. Deportation and murder continued, leading to further ruptures in the socio-cultural environment, which divided national-cultural memory. The 20th century Hungarian historical context is a fertile ground for case studies, as all ethnicities of the population suffered significant trauma. Due to state-directed forced remembering and forgetting, losses stayed unprocessed. These maintain their presence, dominate private memories through generations in forms of resurfacing traumas or active silencing – manifesting as gaps. In the research, I adopt two positions to capture confabulation; the autoethnographic and the archivist-editor. In my personal, autoethnographic inquiry, I question the intentions behind my family’s silenced narratives of both Holocaust survivor and communist perpetrator pasts. The process of excavation includes facing limitations, which I aim to translate. From the material re-enactment, I learn that erasure is a perpetual, un-achievable, act. The visual outputs encrypt such experiences. The pocket-sized books enable the viewers for an active, performed engagement through which they simultaneously experience the obsessive attempts of filling in the gaps to reconstruct – moving the objects to peek into holes – and failure through material resistance. Through the archivist-editor practice I foreground other people’s subjectivity. To collect confabulated stories on photographs, I combined oral history methods, open-ended insider interviews with autoethnographical methods of ‘collaborative witness’ (Ellis, Rawicki, 2013) and ‘friendship as method’ (Tillmann-Healy, 2003). From such an internal position, I accompany the eight participants – my friends – in their idiosyncratic meaning making, where I performed as the audience for the storyteller. Through insider participation, I analysed our interaction, mapped and visualised our encounter, expanding Langford’s’ oral-photographic framework, creating family album-like photobooks in both digital and material form. Moving to the collective level, I also mapped and visualised how Hungarian ideological frameworks weave into the participants’ personal network and how do these correspond with each other as memory texts (Kuhn, 2002). This methodology revealed that confabulated narratives deviate from the participant’s pre-set narrative frameworks. I argue that the oral-performative-interactive register of photographs is accessible through confabulation. The viewer, interacting with the listener, transforms into a storyteller, draws the emotional narrative around the gaps – the denied and silences past – which creates a presence for it – that eventually can be recovered and reconciled. Through the confabulative process, the participants inscribe their own subjective voice, gain ownership of their past, which subsequently renders their narratives counter to the dominant Hungarian ideological frameworks.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.802897  DOI: Not available
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