Reenactments

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 3, Surfaces and Strategies, Week 1

A defining event is memorised as it typifies and summarises the drama that led to a series of changes.  It could be said that the 18th June 1984 was the defining moment that led to the social and political constructs that prevail in the UK in June 2017; cheap sweat shops and millionaires.  The battle of Orgreave was the bloody confrontation driven by a right wing government and a mobilised mining workforce. The artist Jeremy Deller when asked about his reenactment project of this battle in his interview with David Alan Mellow (Photoworks, 2011) he describes the perforative pice as an ‘awareness raising exercise, it adds a little to the record in that we have first hand accounts in the book and film’. With frank understatement Deller describes his enormous enterprise in staging his work in 2001.

colli room

fig 1

In 2017 there is an opportunity to partake in another reenactment of sorts. The artist Mat Collisahw has collaborated with photographic historian Pete James to create an experimental exhibition known as Thresholds, currently staged at Somerset House and will be touring thereafter. Harnessing both a simple physical space fig 1 Using the latest in VR technology, Thresholds restages one of the earliest exhibitions of photography in 1839, when British scientist William Henry Fox Talbot first presented his photographic prints to the public at King Edward’s School, Birmingham.

fig 2,3

I was fortunate enough to experience this immersive walk through the digitally reconstructed room figs 2, 3 (backpack, headphones, headset) with my fingers touching the bespoke vitrines – a combination of actual touch and visual decorative model projected through my headset. I overcame the faintly nauseating feeling when I first stepped out. Via the headphones you respond to the sound of demonstrations of the Chartist protesters who rioted in 1839 on the streets of Birmingham, and who can be glimpsed through the digital windows.  This was a combined experience, melding the both of the medium, the ability to re-see via a form of reenactment that I am certain will become more prevalent, especially when each ‘VR’ kit wearing person can interact with each-other presently other users are simply ghostly blurs when nearby).

My Practice

So, this brings the question can reenactment feature in my work? As the acting out of a past event it is an opportunity to rephotograph and film from perspectives that were not prevailing at the time of the original event; an opportunity Deller applies in his work. This is not a feature of my current practice, yet as a refine and define my strategy and methodology for my work I will review reenactment as a tool for heaping people and myself understand the history behind the structures I am currently making images of.  The medium of VR may yet be a stretch in terms of the enormity of the kit and modelling required.

References

http://www.jeremydeller.org/TheBattleOfOrgreave/TheBattleOfOrgreave_Video.php

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/mat-collishaw-thresholds

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