Alexandra Hughes predominantly constructs installations that bring together photography, sculptural materials ,and performative gesture to explore an embodied encounter with photographic objects. Hughes describes her processes and approach to photography as ‘wilding’; tactile, visceral, and disruptive. In constructing installations Hughes looks to rupture the dividing line of images to matter and the encountering body. In doing so, Hughes makes situations for new subjectivities and unforeseen narratives that de-stabilise and re-create worlds, throwing into question the boundaries of representation, material, and imagination.
Hughes’ academic achievements include a PhD (Fine Art-practice-based), Northumbria University (2019), and MFA (Fine Art Media), The Slade School of Fine Art (2008). Past exhibitions include, Sticky Together, Jakob Kroon Galeri, Worthing (2019), Artists in the Field, Royal Geographical Society, London (2019), Liquid Land, Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge (2018), Materiality, Gymnasium Gallery, Berwick upon Tweed (2017), Polyspace, The NewBridge Project, Newcastle upon Tyne (2016), ROTOR, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2010), freshfacedandwildeyed09, The Photographers’ Gallery, London (2009). Hughes curated cross-disciplinary exhibition and performative symposium Assembly, Baltic 39, Newcastle upon Tyne (2018). Past talks include, Talking Photography: Reality Check, Birkbeck University, London (2017), Practicing the Anthropocene, Scottish National Galleries, Modern One, Edinburgh (2016), Artist in Conversation with curator Karen McQuaid (The Photographers’ Gallery), Siobhan Davies Studio, London (2010).Hughes is a member of Ph Research Network - “a collective space for disparate thinking on photography.”
WILDING PHOTOGRAPHS: Exploring the Turbulent and Affective Qualities of the Material Phenomenon of Photography Suspended above the ground, fragments of photographic imagery and material are seen in a dense arrangement of matter.… She points at a detail and states she feels there is a purposeful ‘wilding’ creating rifts and schisms between material, that disrupts expectation, throwing into question the encounter (Hughes 2016). This doctoral project operates through an exhibition-based practice that brings the photographic image together with sculptural material and performative gesture to explore an embodied encounter with photographic objects. The research challenges both the identity of photographic images as ubiquitous, immaterial representations made manifest by digital technologies, as well as the predilection of photographic theory to evolve critical discourse away from the turbulent and affective qualities of the material phenomenon of photography. The term ‘Wilding’, calls into question ontologies and cultural assumptions, through interrogative processes that return the photograph to a physical condition and mutable image in turbulent and shifting relationships with matter, preceding and open to meanings. The research evolves through methodologies that privilege co-actions with the photographic object and other material within sensory encounters of environments. Through this approach, the research explores the construction of installations as situations for embodied encounters, accounting for the artist-researcher, a cross-disciplinary network and audience engagement, all of which serve to destabilise and re-create worlds, facilitating the examination of the boundaries of representation, material and imagination. The main question the research seeks to address is: What are the potential effects on material, body and meaning, when simultaneously engaging with photography’s haptic, spatial and temporal dimensions? In seeing to answer this question, the research widens critical reflection on the material encounter of photography in the social and cultural sensorium. The visceral and psychological enquiry of this project draws on key texts relating to photography’s expanded field (Baker 2005) as well as the ‘experiential turn’ (von Hantelmann 2014) and the contemporary and feminine sublime (Morley 2010; Freeman 1995). It also considers theory on ‘New Materialism’ in cultural geography, anthropology and contemporary feminism (Bachelard 1942; Anderson & Wylie 2006; Neimanis 2012; Ishii 2012) and the embodied encounter through the critical sphere of phenomenology (Merleau-Ponty 1945; Dufrenne1973) and ‘situated cognition’ (Brown, Collins & Duguid 1989).
Award Date: 11/06/2019
Principal Supervisor: Fiona Crisp and Rupert Ashmore
Second Supervisor: Tom O'Sullivan