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Meg Rahaim

PhD Work

Material-Digital Resistance: Toward a Tactics of Visibility

This PhD research considers the ways in which digital, networked technologies shape the contemporary everyday. Through an art practice rooted in printmaking, I investigate how a contemporary condition of everyday life, characterised by the suppression of distance in speed of communication and the ubiquitous presence of surveillant apparatuses, affects the way we understand the image.

This line of questioning relates to anxieties incited in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the advent of the railway, the telegraph, the airplane and the telephone – not to mention the heavily entangled military implications of all of these and more. What is different, or novel to our time, is a disorienting change that is not only dromoscopic, relating to the compression or shortening of distances, but suggests the withering of the body in the suppression of distances by the seeming instantaneity of the networked condition, the pseudo haptic nature of networked devices, and the pervasive continuity with which that network persists.

At the core of my concern is the changing nature of visibility in private and public spaces with the spread of networked technologies of everyday life. Michel de Certeau once described a city as planned program of living beings, embodying the discursive strategic relationship between government and governed. Within this projection of visible power and control, individuals could work in resistance, in spite of or peripherally to that projection, 'ordinary practitioners of the city live… below the thresholds at which visibility begins… They are walkers… whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban text they write without being able to read it.' [1] Because these 'walkers' could manipulate circumstances in ways the program of authority did not anticipate, their production was invisible to it. But this was dependent on the limits of surveillance. Is it possible to act invisibly today? Perhaps not. While the tactics de Certeau described did assert human agency within a system, today’s electronically networked technologies would render their invisibility impossible, suggesting to me need to develop a tactics of profound visibility, here the work of art. To this end, I cite Vilem Flusser’s methods for 'playing against the camera', a methodology of resistance to the dehumanising functionalism of technological progress [2]. I am interested in the possibility of the tactical extension of an abstract philosophy of photography to the practical reality of living in the twenty-first century.

Both my writing and studio practice serve to implicate current everyday technology in establishing a living condition that is pervasively visually exposed, potentially rendering us all the flattened-out objects of this vision, and requiring the introduction of a set of artistic tactics that will work to interrogate the nature of this visibility. My source material is born of our digital everyday, pixilated phenomena screenshot and manipulated to evoke both the banality and the watchfulness of networked image technologies. The hybrid (digital/handmade) approach to image making in my practice questions assumptions of the immateriality of the digital image, and asserts: the role of the body in the production and understanding of the digital image; the unique nature of the digital object as both material and mutable; and the roles of pixel, surface, and mark in the understanding of both digital manipulation and the handmaking of images; all in an attempted response to the visibility of everyday life as obstacle to tactical creativity.

Supervisors: Dr Tim O'RileyProfessor Jo StockhamBob Matthews

Info

  • Meg Rahaim
  • PhD

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    Printmaking, 2010–2014

  • Concerned with the intersections of imagination and technologies in everyday encounter, my research takes the material structure of the digital image as a starting point for understanding the role of images in twenty-first century everyday life. I attempt to articulate digital materiality as a means of tactical intervention in the image by blending manual and computer processes, and channelling source material meant for one media through another in prints, drawings, textile works, and projection.

    The exhibited work, Scribal Drift, is an installation of handmade, digital image-objects and accompanying prints. This work uses a process for the hand-digitization of an image, whereby I write a crochet pattern, manually sample an image to the pattern, alphanumerically code each sampled pixel/stitch, then follow the code to re-make the image by hand in crochet over a period of several weeks. It is a tedious process informed by resistance: the material particularities of the craft, the challenges to concentration and attention span, and the inevitability of error. By the insertion of a written code of instructions into the process of hand-making an image, I engage in an absurd, yet rich experience of labour in relation to the automatic.

     
  • Degrees

  • MFA Printmaking, University of Delaware, 2005; BA English and Fine Art, Mount St. Mary's University, 2002
  • Experience

  • Assistant Professor of Fine Art, Mount St. Mary's University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, 2005-2010; Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, 2003-2005
  • Exhibitions

  • Denkmaschinen, Heiligenkreuzerhoff Gallery, Vienna, 2013; Life Bildung, Barbican Centre, London, 2013; dIvIsIbIlIty, two person exhibition, Hockney Gallery, London, 2013; Disruption, Gulbenkian Gallery, London, 2012; The Second Show, Cafe Gallery, London, 2012; Work-in-progress Show, Royal College of Art, London, 2011; Monumental Idea, Miniature Book, traveled internationally, 2009; Monoprint Guild of New England National Juried Exhibition, Attleboro Arts Museum, Attleboro, Massachusetts, 2008; Identity: Construct/Deconstruct, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 2008; 'The line forms here,' solo exhibition, Meyers School of the Arts, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, 2008; Bridges of Hope, Cab Calloway School for the Performing Arts, Wilmington, 2007; Invitational Exhibition, Ortlip Gallery, Houghton, New York, 2007; Plot Influential, opened at Birmingham Southern College, Birmingham, Alabama, traveled nationally, 2007; Satan's Hook, Ortlip Gallery, Houghton, New York, 2007; Identity, Gallery MC, New York, New York, 2005; Last Call, Old College Gallery, Newark, Delaware, 2005; Twelve, Eleventh and Orange Gallery, Wilmington, Delaware, 2005; Made in the USA, University of South Dakota and University of Colorado-Pueblo, 2005; Rousing Influence, Printmaking Gallery, University of Delaware, 2005; New Work, Memorial Gallery, Emmitsburg, Maryland, 2004
  • Conferences

  • 'Scribal Drift: An experiment in handmaking the digital image', a performance lecture, Critical Practice and Experimentation Conference, University of Copenhagen, 2014; 'Scribal Drift', a symposium presentation, i-Scan, The Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool, 2014; 'Performing the Palimpsest: On the Impulse to Re-enact the Timespace of the Everyday', a paper presentation, The Edge of Our Thinking, an inaugural research conference, conference coordinator, Royal College of Art, 2011; 'Relinquish', an artist book in Monumental Idea, Miniature Book, Southern Graphics Council Conference, Columbia College, Chicago, 2009; 'Satan's Hook', curator of an invited portfolio of prints, Southern Graphics Council Conference, Kansas City Art Institute, 2007; 'Twins', a relief print in wax for Under the Microscope, invited portfolio of prints, Southern Graphics Council Conference, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2006