Nicky Bird

A Practice PhD Experience (1994-1998)

GETTING IN ON THE ACT:

Abstract

My research has been a form of retrieval with the starting point often being an original or ‘found’ photograph. I am interested in how ‘documentary’ photography, whether by accident or design, catches and preserves the peripheral. I have been working with a series of ‘historical’ photographs, in which an unidentified individual or group who are ‘peripheral’ to the main point of the photograph, have been ‘caught’ within its frame. The retrieval is in using those ‘unassumed’ parts of the ‘found’ photograph, so they become another source of meaning. The theme of ‘the periphery’ has become the basis for my research, resulting in both artworks and writings. For example, the installation The Fitting and the text A History of Looking are based on a little known photograph of Marilyn Monroe watched by a group of unidentified women. Both outcomes are different kinds of ‘close readings’ of the original image. While the installation is concerned with image, viewer and space, the text investigates the process of memory and speculation; how ‘photography’, ‘autobiography’ and ‘history’ are also embroiled with aspects of femininity, consumption and nostalgia.

An investigation of an original photograph can take two routes: one in which the camera documents the process or journey – collecting evidence of possible traces of places or people. The other is through reconstruction using sets, costumes and actors who bear some physical resemblance to those in the original image. I have adopted both strategies at different points of my research, as evidenced in both the text A History of Looking and the accompanying dossier. This includes a video compilation of my studio practice from 1995-1998.

GETTING IN ON THE ACT is a result of an art practice that involves the processes of reconstruction, re-enactment and detection. In both practical and theoretical terms, my research has been concerned with the possibilities of what may lie at the ‘periphery’: the desire, agency of a classed subject to insert themselves, however incidentally, into photographic representation, and thereby into history.


GETTING IN ON THE ACT: ‘A History of Looking,’ Volume 1
GETTING IN ON THE ACT: ‘A History of Looking,’ Volume 2


GETTING IN ON THE ACT: Artworks & Critical Reflections

The Fitting, 1996-1998
Before/After, 1997
Red Herrings, 1998
Member of the Wedding, 1998
Detecting Ghosts, 1998