Mid-way through my MA I made a whole series of collages by combining two photographs of women, one contemporary and one taken up to 80 years ago. I haven’t made any since – the films of edgelands have taken over – but this week I revisited them and made ten new collages. This set of work could run and run. The matches aren’t as easy to uncover as one might think, although if they were hassle-free to make there’d be no fun doing them!

Making so intensively risks carelessness and compromise, but as I found out on my MA it’s also a chance to drive the work forward and force it to evolve. In this case, I can feel the influence of my recent films creeping in as a third delicately translucent image insinuates itself to haunt the others, altering them subtly. Simplified cuts bisect vertical and horizontal planes in a way that feels more self-assured than before. There’s also a trickery of the eye as the cuts in the paper – the demarcation lines between one image and another – are implied rather than real. The fractures to the original images remain – there’s nothing intact to see here. Each collage is printed on cotton rag paper rather than the semi-gloss photographic paper I used in the past, offering soft, matt, saturated colour more in keeping with the slightly retro feel of the original images.

The collages will be available for sale together with a series of landscape prints from my recent films at Making Art Work’s Art Market in Maidstone in September.


More about the work

The trigger image for each collage is a twentieth century black and white portrait of an actress – an immaculately made up star frozen in perfect, dramatic pose. On the face of it is passive perfection but I sense a hint of resistance from the tilt of her head or defiant glint in her eyes. It’s beauty that comes with a steely edge. I pair each old image with another in a similar posture found in a contemporary fashion magazine. The new constructed image that is created takes on its own unique character, crafted as it is from the fragments of two others.

Each print is a limited edition of 12 produced on Somerset paper using Epson Ultrachrome inks. Size – 26 x 26cms, unframed





The last film I made caused me some frustration. The image kept pixelating, partially I think because I was filming from a moving base (the train) and because the editing software struggled with the data thrown at it. Due to this I’m reconsidering the camera and editing software used. However, I can also see that it’s an opportunity – an uncontrolled distortion of the footage – one perhaps with potential for further exploitation.

Pixilation is a type of glitch. There are two types of glitches. The first is artificial, manufactured using special software or by moving footage to another Codec. The results are predictable – a particular piece of footage run through the same process twice gives identical results each time. The second type of glitch is random and happens when circumstances overwhelm the technology being used. As my knowledge grows, I can predict when it may happen but I can’t control it or have any certainty about what the end results will look like. This is the sort of glitch I’m seeing in my footage.

I’m already deliberately distorting the natural vision in the films I make so why not simply embrace the glitch as another form of this?


Sean Cubitt & Rosa Menkman, ‘Indefinite Visions’ Conference, Whitechapel Gallery, 24th to  25th June 2016





I make films that manipulate natural vision – they distort what the eye would see in some way. Evidently this desire to alter the view is common to expanded cinema and connects it to non-figurative painting. Focus, perspectives, colours, footage speed, sound are all ripe for exploitation. (1)

Ernie Gehr’s film ‘The Glider’, 2001 shows views distorted into a curve by a rounded camera lens and perspectival rules are abandoned. At first, what’s seen appears abstract but it resolves gradually into lines of a building, figures of people, a seascape curving across the picture plan or rushing down the screen. What’s offered is a distorted representation of the real world. (2)

Seeing is natural but experiences are constructed. If a film succeeds in evoking sensations in the viewer, what it offers must de facto be outside the scope of normal perception. But why go there? It reveals a world hovering beneath the usual one. Perception is changed – opened up to new possibilities. A sense of the uncanny is made manifest. The Freudian uncanny is an ungraspable, aesthetic experience that creates a rift. One could say about it: ‘I recognise what I see but the film reveals things I do not recall, perhaps because they were too fast for my eye to perceive’. (1, 3)

The inhuman gaze of the camera captures what the human eye cannot.

The disjuncture between what’s seen and what’s recalled drives the uncanny out into the open. It evokes an experience in the one seeing it; something tertiary – unlived. The uncanny provokes one to feel something you do not perceive. Divisions between mind and body are removed; exteriority and interiority are brought into balance. (1, 3)

So, the films I make all manipulate natural vision to some extent, but I can see there is a great deal of potential to push this further by varying the techniques I use and the degree of manipulation employed. I think it’s time to let my imagination run riot!



1 DN Rodowick, ‘Indefinite Visions’ Conference, Whitechapel Gallery, 24th to 25th June 2016

2 http://www.waysofseeing.org/struct.html, 24/06/16

3 Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, ‘Indefinite Visions’ Conference, Whitechapel Gallery, 24th to 25th June 2016