Padraig Robinson: From caves, to mirrors, to churches, to arcades, to screens...
Advisor/tutor: Alena Alexandrova
Independent reviewer: Boris Buden
Arnhem, June 2013
From Caves, to mirrors, to churches, to arcades, to screens...explores the place(s) of image, in light of a cultural imagination increasingly informed by the ubiquity of audio-visual and pictorial material, as well as access to image making technology. This thesis will analyse the visual agency and politics of the body via a non-linear genealogy of images and the agenda's of visual administration, literally from caves, to mirrors, to churches, to arcades, to screens. With the introduction of smart-phones and i-pads, the screen has become the general place of images, which I eventually argue as having created new conditions of visibility to be examined. Does this also suggest a new era of ethics regarding the production, consumption, appropriation and distribution of images? Can the body itself be described as an image that can be networked, owned, appropriated and distributed exterior to itself? I do not separate the nomination of images into taxonomies of aesthetic functions, but rather I perceive image as a genus of the visual, an appearance or a representational limit. Image as I mean it exists both exterior to the organic body and within the domain of the psychosocial, where the interior production of the visual is supplemented by the availability of imaging apparatus. I will develop the term 'televisic' to denote image production as a psychological intention or habit, one effected by the ecology of a material world increasingly informed by mass image production, presentation, participation and distribution.
First, what could have been done better? The argument advanced in the thesis and announced quite ambitiously at the outset could have been elaborated more clearly. It tends to evaporate in the plethora of references. For instance, the explanation of the neologism "televisic", which is crucial for the understanding of the thesis, is dispersed throughout the text and remains vague and cryptic. Generally, the argument lacks focus, which cannot be compensated by speculatively overstressing it. A resolute shortening could have improved the thesis significantly. On the other side, the candidate demonstrated a confident mastery of the theoretical ideas on which it focused and showed a real verve and originality in applying them on an extraordinary rich cultural and historical material. Especially impressive is his courageous reappropriation of a concept coined on the obscure edges of the cultural history where it enters the dangerous zone of esoterism and parapsychology. The author definitely succeeded in establishing curious but productive liaisons between culturally remote and most diverse phenomena of spirituality, contemporary visual culture and new media technology. As said before, several aspect of the thesis might still be improved, yet already in its actual form it is a very successful example of creative and sovereign thinking. B.B.