Noise: the re-materialization of the digital in Phumzile Khanyile's photographic series Plastic Crowns (2015-2016)
(University College London)
Paper short abstract:
Based on the photographic series Plastic Crowns, this paper will look at the notion of 'noise' as a political and visual strategy to materialize hegemonic norms and reveals the co-construction of womanhood and domestic space in South Africa.
Paper long abstract:
Plastic Crowns, a series of self-portraits by the young Soweto-born photographer Phumzile Khanyile, reveals the co-construction of womanhood and domestic space through re-materializing their photographic representation. Produced between 2015 and 2016 under the umbrella of the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, this photographic series revisits the contents and forms of the family album by incorporating 'grains' and blurring digital imagery. In Image Matters: Archive, Photography, and the African Diaspora in Europe (2012), Tina M. Campt analyses family archives through the conceptual frameworks of sound and music. In a critique of the notion of 'transparency', Campt argues that photographs should be 'listened to', instead of simply being looked at, in order to understand their broader cultural meanings, translations and articulations. Incorporating dissonances and reiterations within her visual analysis, Campt not only succeeds in shortcutting the 'self-evident' dimension of analogue photography, but also highlights continuity and breaks within the genre of portraiture, as well as within a broader socio-historical 'harmony'. This paper will look at the notion of 'noise' as a political and visual strategy to materialize patriarchal norms, revisit familial heritage and colonial memory. Covering the camera's lens with a piece of her grandmother's dress, Khanyile's use of 'grains' and blurs shortcuts the digital focus and mimics analogue photography. As the female body merges within the photographic texture, Plastic Crowns highlights the gendered construction of the domestic space and unveils the 'masquerade' of the feminine throughout South African history.
Agile Objects: The Art and Anthropology of Re-materialization